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Jane G. Landers

Haitian revolutionary, was born a slave in Cap Français (or Guarico, in Spanish), on the northern coast of Saint Domingue, in modern Haiti. Spanish documents give his parents' names as Carlos and Diana, and Biassou and his mother were the slaves of the Holy Fathers of Charity in Cap Français, where Biassou's mother worked in the Hospital of the Holy Fathers of Charity, probably as a laundress or cook. Biassou's father's owner and occupation are unknown.

In 1791 Biassou joined Boukman Dutty, a slave driver and coachman considered by the slaves to be a religious leader, and Jean‐François, also a slave from the Northern Plains of Saint Domingue, in leading the largest slave revolt in the Western Hemisphere on–the richest sugar colony of its day, French Saint Domingue. Boukman was killed in November of 1791 only three months into the revolt and Biassou and Jean François assumed command ...

Article

Billy  

William Seraile

The treason case of Billy is more significant for what it says about the ambivalence toward slavery of Thomas Jefferson and other Virginians than for the light it sheds on the life of Billy, or Will. Ironically, in 1710 another slave named Will had a brief flirtation with history. This earlier Will was freed for “his fidelity … in discovering a conspiracy of diverse negros … for levying war” in Virginia.

The Will, or Billy, of the treason case was the slave of Colonel John Tayloe, a resident of Richmond County, Virginia. Billy and others were arrested and convicted of seizing an armed vessel on 2 April 1781 in order to wage war against Virginia. He was condemned to death by the court of Oyer and Terminer in Prince William County on 8 May. Henry Lee and William Carr dissenting justices noted that he was not a citizen ...

Article

Aaron Myers

In the early seventeenth century, commercial interests carried Dutch explorers to Brazil, where they seized control over parts of the northeastern states of Bahia (1624–1625) and Pernambuco (1630–1654). By occupying a central part of the Portuguese colonial empire, the Dutch geographically divided Brazil and threatened its political stability. Thus in 1633, Henrique Dias, a native of Pernambuco, enlisted himself in the national effort to oust the Dutch from colonial Brazil. Dias soon became the captain of a black regiment consisting of both free and slave soldiers. He was thus known as the Governor of the Blacks, Creoles, and Mulattoes. Beginning with only twenty men, Dias's regiment grew to some 300 soldiers by the end of the war. They were instrumental in several victories leading to the expulsion of the Dutch from Brazil in 1654 Some sources claim that Henrique Dias also engaged in ...

Article

Vincent Carretta

The most important and one of the most widely published authors of African descent in the English‐speaking world of the 18th century. Equiano helped to found the genre of the slave narrative when he published The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African: Written by Himself in London in March 1789. The Interesting Narrative is a spiritual autobiography, captivity narrative, travel book, adventure tale, slavery narrative, economic treatise, apologia, and argument against the transatlantic slave trade and slavery. From its first appearance the Interesting Narrative has also been recognized as the classic description of an African society before contact with Europeans, as well as of the forced transatlantic transportation of enslaved Africans known since the 18th century as the Middle Passage.

By his own account, Equiano was born in 1745 in Eboe in the kingdom of Benin in what is now south ...

Article

Gordon  

Frank H. Goodyear

escaped slave and Union soldier, was likely born on the plantation of John Lyon near Washington, Louisiana, an important steamboat port before the Civil War. Lyon was a cotton planter whose property was located on the Atchafalya River. The names of Gordon's parents and details about his youth are not known.

Gordon received a severe whipping for undisclosed reasons from the plantation's overseer in the fall of 1862. This beating left him with horrible welts on much of the surface of his back, and for the next two months Gordon recuperated in bed. Although Lyon discharged the overseer who carried out this vicious attack, Gordon decided to escape.

In March 1863 Gordon fled his home heading east toward the Mississippi River and Union lines Upon learning of his flight his master recruited several neighbors and together they chased after him with a pack of bloodhounds Gordon had anticipated ...

Article

Nick Nesbitt

Few historical facts are known regarding Jean Ignace's life prior to 1802, and much speculation has surrounded this protean figure of Afro-Guadeloupean identity. Ignace has variously been perceived as a ferocious brute, a proto-independence fighter, a noble hero of the black race, a former maroon slave and Dessalines-like figure, and a brave though strategically naive soldier. Born in Pointe-à-Pitre, most likely a free, mixed-race carpenter prior to the French abolition of slavery in 1794, he joined the colonial army sometime after the arrival of Victor Hugues in Guadeloupe in that same year.

The historical circumstances of Ignace and Louis Delgrès's revolt itself are, however, fairly certain. On May 5, 1802, a fleet of ships under the command of the French general Richepanse arrived in Guadeloupe. Like the troops of General Leclerc who at the same moment were engaged in an unsuccessful struggle to retain ...

Article

Gary Ashwill

A self-educated former slave, François Dominique Toussaint-L'Ouverture joined the Haitian Revolution in 1791 and became its foremost general, defeating both French and British forces. In 1802, he was betrayed and captured, and he died imprisoned in France.

Toussaint figures importantly in the early-nineteenth-century writings of James McCune Smith, David Walker, and Henry Highland Garnet, among others, as a symbol and exemplar of resistance to slavery, and as an example of the potential of the black race. William Wells Brown, in his pamphlet St. Domingo: Its Revolution and Its Patriots (1854), compares Toussaint favorably to Napoleon and George Washington: “Toussaint liberated his countrymen; Washington enslaved a portion of his.” George Clinton Rowe's seventy-stanza poem, Toussaint L'Ouverture (1890), lauds Toussaint as the “deliverer of his race.” Later African American writers such as Carter G. Woodson and W. E. B. Du Bois argued ...

Article

Barrymore Bogues

Former slave, and political and military leader during the late eighteenth century of the revolutionary slave army in the Caribbean French colony of Saint Domingue, Toussaint L’Ouverture is a historical figure of world significance. By the early nineteenth century, he was known as one of the most remarkable men of those times. The English Romantic poet William Wordsworth honored him with a sonnet; major Western newspapers wrote editorials about him, and when he died in a French prison, one newspaper called him a “truly great man.” In the late nineteenth century, the American writer Henry Adams devoted a chapter of his nine-volume history of the United States to Toussaint L’Ouverture. In Adams’s judgment, “The story of Toussaint Louverture [sic has been told almost as that of Napoleon but not in connection with the history of the United States although Toussaint exercised an influence as decisive as that of any ...

Article

Kenneth Wiggins Porter

Luis Pacheco owes his fame principally to Republican Joshua R. Giddings's semifictional antislavery work The Exiles of Florida (1858). Pacheco was born on December 26, 1800, in Spanish Florida, at New Switzerland, a plantation on the Saint Johns River. He was the slave of Francis Philip Fatio. His parents were “pureblooded negroes,” and his father, Adam, was a “remarkably intelligent and ambitious negro,” a “carpenter, boat-builder, and driver.” Early on, Pacheco became acquainted with the neighboring Seminoles, among whom he had a sister. A brother had been captured as a child but had returned some twenty years later, and from him Pacheco “picked up a great deal of the language.” During his boyhood, his master's daughter, Susan Philippa Fatio taught him to read and write He was ambitious to learn and of quick perception and acquired a good deal of book learning But he ...

Article

At a young age, André Rigaud went to France and trained as a soldier in the French army. He was one of many Haitians who fought under French commanders against the British in the American Revolution (1775–1783). After returning to Haiti, Rigaud worked as a goldsmith until the outbreak of the Haitian Revolution in 1791. He emerged as leader of the mulatto (mixed African and European descent) forces and instigated an insurrection against black military commander François Dominique Toussaint Louverture in 1799. This led to a civil war between the mulatto and black forces that were fighting against French colonial rule. The insurrection failed, leaving about 10,000 of Rigaud's supporters dead, and he fled to France in 1801. The emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte I, deported Rigaud to Madagascar.

Article

Jerry Gershenhorn

historian, was born in Durham, North Carolina, the son of Eural Endris Thorpe, cotton and tobacco mill worker, and Vina (Dean) Thorpe. Thorpe's mother died before his fourth birthday. In 1932 Eural Thorpe married Bessie Love, who raised Eural's three children with Vina as well as Eural and Bessie's own three children. The Thorpes, who were Baptists, valued religion and education. Despite the limited family income all six children completed college.

Thorpe graduated from Durham's Hillside High School in 1942; he earned a scholarship to attend North Carolina College for Negroes (NCCN), the first state-supported liberal arts college for African Americans, founded in 1910 by James E. Shepard Thorpe attended NCCN for one year before he was drafted into the segregated U S Army during World War II He served in the Ninety second Infantry Division initially assigned to Fort Huachuca Arizona where he ...

Article

Roy E. Finkenbine

Born to African slave parents on the Bréda plantation near Cap Français (contemporary Cap-Haïtien) in Saint Domingue, the leading French sugar colony in the Caribbean, Toussaint remained in slavery for nearly the first five decades of his life. His manager, Bayou de Libertas, recognizing his intelligence, assigned him the less physically demanding task of serving as his coachman, taught him to read, and allowed him to read extensively on a variety of subjects. Among his favorite books were histories of the military campaigns of Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great, which undoubtedly helped familiarize him with military strategy.

When the French Revolution—with its slogan of liberty, equality, and fraternity—precipitated slave revolts in Saint Domingue in 1791 Toussaint seized his chance for freedom After helping his master flee to safety in the United States he entered the fighting on the rebel side quickly earning a reputation as a skilled ...

Article

There is little documentation regarding the life of François Dominique Toussaint Louverture before the first slave uprising in 1791 in Saint-Domingue (as Haiti was known before independence). According to contemporary oral accounts, his parents were from Dahomey (present-day Benin), and his father was a powerful chief in that country before his enslavement. Toussaint was the first of eight children born on the Bréda plantation, near the northern coast of Saint-Domingue. Born in the French colony, and familiar with its culture, Toussaint was considered a Creole rather than an African, which—according to the logic of European colonialism—guaranteed him a more elevated social status. This status, and the plantation owner's affection for him, freed Toussaint from ever having to toil in the sugarcane fields. Instead, he worked as a domestic servant in the plantation house. Toussaint was emancipated in 1776 at the young age of thirty-three. In 1779 he rented ...

Article

Glenn Allen Knoblock

Loyalist guerrilla leader during the American Revolution, originally known as Titus, was the slave of John Corlis in Shrewsbury, Monmouth County, New Jersey. Titus was cruelly treated by his master and was often whipped for the most trivial offenses. Though John Corlis was a Quaker, as a slaveholder he practiced few of the faith's pacifist beliefs. Even among Quakers that did hold slaves, Corlis proved abusive. Not only did he frequently whip Titus, he refused to teach him to read and write, he likely offered no religious instruction, and he refused to free him at age twenty-one, practices normally followed by slave-owning Quakers.

Given Titus's lowly status, it is therefore not surprising that he would have escaped from his master at the first opportunity. In November 1775, perhaps around the time of his twenty-first birthday, Titus ran away. Corlis placed an ad for his runaway slave on 8 ...