“Slavery is such an atrocious debasement of human nature, that its very extirpation, if not performed with solicitous care, may sometimes open a source of serious evils.” – Benjamin Franklin
Given the treatment of slaves and even free men, it was not surprising that various uprisings had been planned throughout the nineteenth century. In many situations the leaders of such rebellions were intelligent, literate slaves, though there are of course exceptions; for example, Denmark Vesey had bought his freedom some time previous and John Brown was a white abolitionist. One of the most notorious revolts, perhaps, was Nat Turner’s rebellion which saw white men, women and children indescriminately slaughtered and their slaves freed.
Most uprisings were not successful, but nevertheless, the slaveowners in the South were greatly fearful of insurrection as they were vastly outnumbered. Numerous slave codes and federal laws were imposed to curtail the ability of slaves and African Americans to revolt against their masters, which in turn created further friction on both sides. Generally slave holders attempted to shield their slaves from the full details of the rebellion, some newspapers even failed to report on the aftermath entirely in order to avoid further fuelling the fire. Some of the slave codes that various states imposed can be viewed in the navigation bar below for further reference.
- Learn about the people behind the most famous slave rebellions.
- Read about the impact of slave rebellions on society.
- Discover the outcome of the most famous slave uprisings.
- Read about the plots surrounding the famous slave rebellions of the nineteenth century.
- Learn about the trials centered around the instigators of the slave revolts.
Famous Slave Rebellions
John Brown was a white abolitionist and most famous for inciting the failed slave revolt known as Harpers Ferry Raid in 1859.
Gabriel Prosser was executed for inciting the first large scale slave uprising in the United States.
Nat Turner was famed for leading the largest successful slave revolt; a bloody rampage which carried on for 36 hours and saw 60 white people killed.
Denmark Vesey was a free man, credited with planning a slave revolt in Charleston 1822.