A Forgotten Rebellion
Throughout the days of slavery in North America, there were dozens of slave rebellions. While most of these rebellions occurred after the American Revolution, one rebellion happened before the founding of the United States. This rebellion, known as the Stono Rebellion, happened in 1739 and has practically been taken out of America’s history books. The Stono Rebellion is thought to be the largest slave rebellion in Colonial America. Before this rebellion, slave rebellions were practically unknown in the British Colonies. Because of this, the whole colony of South Carolina was shaken to its core.
The exact date of this rebellion is Sunday, September 9, 1739. The rebellion started in the early hours of that day. It consisted of about 20 enslaved Africans, all of who came over on a slave ship about five years prior. They gathered near a bridge by Stono River near the city of Charles Town, which is now known as Charleston. They picked that location because they had been working on building a public road there. While the slaves were usually heavily guarded, this morning there were no guards.
Whether the group of 20 had planned this rebellion knowing they would be unguarded is not known. However, it is believed that on Sundays slaves were allowed to work by themselves, without a white overseer. This has led historians to wonder if Jemmy was left in charge, which would make a revolt much easier. Whatever the case, Jemmy is the only name written down in the reports that speak of this deadly revolt. To start the revolt, the group of 20 went from the Stono River to Hutchinson’s store.
Once they reached the store, the Africans murdered the two men who were running the store. They also took any guns and gunpowder. As they were leaving, they took the severed heads of the white men and placed them on the front steps. No one exactly knows why they did this but it is speculated that it deals with the beheading of runaway slaves. From the store, the crew went to the house of Godfrey. Here they killed Godfrey, his children, took whatever supplies they needed, and then burned the house down. They then headed south to continue their revolt.
When they reached Wallace’s Tavern, they left the innkeeper alone. Historians believe this is because he was kind to slaves. But they killed Wallace’s neighbor and about 20 other individuals and continued to take whatever supplies they needed. Furthermore, they gained more people to join their revolt as they went through the city. It wasn’t until that afternoon when a large group of whites were able to take action against the rebellion. In the end, about 25 whites and 20 blacks were killed. The slaves who escaped during the rebellion were later captured and either sold off or executed.