Slaves during the American colonial period protested their condition in many ways, both subtle and aggressive.
Some rebelled on the slave ships by overpowering the captain and crew and escaping back to land. Many ran away as soon as the ship reached its destination. Others refused to eat, or to take medicine if they were ill.
Slaves also resisted in secret ways. They would pretend not to understand how to do a task, pretend to be sick, damage tools and crops, or kill their master’s animals. They fought the patrollers by installing trapdoors in the floors of their cabins to hide slaves, establishing lookouts, and stretching ropes across roads to trip horses.
Many killed themselves rather than accept life as slaves. Others staged revolts, ran away, poisoned their masters, or escaped to Native American communities.
Some slaves, who had secretly learned to read and write or who had anonymous free helpers, prepared formal petitions for freedom. These were presented to the state governor or legislature.