How did Slaves Revolt during the American Colonial Period?

In 1800, inspired partly by the biblical story of Moses leading the Israelites out of bondage, Virginia slave Gabriel Prosser planned to attack and seize parts of the city of Richmond, killing as many whites as possible in the process.

He spread word of his plan to over one thousand slaves; they gathered, only to break up during a rainstorm. Three slaves had told their masters of the plot, and troops captured at least three dozen plotters. Prosser hid for a month, but finally was captured. All were tried and hanged.

1822: Denmark Vesey, a carpenter who had bought his freedom in 1800 with money from a winning lottery ticket, hated slavery and made speeches and sermons against it. In Charleston, South Carolina, more than 9,000 slaves and free blacks were attracted to Vesey’s plot to “liberate” the city. Several slaves betrayed the plot, and Vesey and some of his comrades were arrested and hanged.

1831: Nat Turner, a Virginia slave and preacher, planned the most famous slave revolt in American history. He began with just six slaves, who went to the plantation of Turner’s master on August 22 and killed the entire family By the next morning, the group, now numbering sixty, had traveled through the county, killing at least fifty-seven white men, women, and children.

Police and the military captured or killed many of the rebels, but Turner escaped arrest until October 30, when he was captured and hanged.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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