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Article

Aaron Myers

In the first half of the nineteenth century, thousands of African slaves were involuntarily brought from the Calabar region of southwestern Nigeria to Cuba in order to labor on the sugar plantations. In Cuba, these enslaved people reconstructed aspects of their language (Igbo) and religious rituals in Abakuás, all-male organizations with closely guarded religious, musical, and dance traditions. The prototype for Cuba's Abakuás can be found in Calabar's leopard societies, groups of highly respected, accomplished men who adopted the leopard as a symbol of masculinity. Today as in the past, Abakuás are found predominantly in the city of Havana and the province of Matanzas and are united by a common African mythology and ritual system.

Abakuás preserve African traditions through performative ceremonies a complex system of signs and narratives in the Igbo language Customarily led by four leaders and eight subordinate officers members of the Abakuás seek to protect ...

Article

The court case of Ableman v. Booth stemmed from the capture of a fugitive slave named Joshua Glover just outside of Racine, Wisconsin, on 10 March 1854. Federal marshals accompanying Glover's owner, a Missourian named Bennami Garland, broke into the shack Glover was occupying and forcibly detained him after a spirited resistance. Glover was taken overnight by wagon to the county jail in Milwaukee, thirty miles north. Garland and the federal marshals intended to take Glover before the U.S. district court judge the next morning to authorize his return to Missouri.

Sherman Booth, Milwaukee's most prominent abolitionist and the publisher of the Milwaukee Free Democrat was alerted to Glover s incarceration by early morning and spread the news quickly throughout the abolitionist community While lawyers obtained a writ of habeas corpus from a county court on Glover s behalf to protect him against illegal imprisonment Booth and ...

Article

John Gilmore

The term can be applied either to the ending of slavery, or to the ending of the slave trade, but in British historical writing the former is more usually referred to as emancipation.

While there are earlier examples of individuals who had doubts about the legality or morality of both the slave trade and slavery, serious public questioning of these institutions only began in Britain in the third quarter of the 18th century, with the attention focused on legal cases such as those of Jonathan Strong and James Somerset (see Somerset case). The first group of people who collectively questioned the legitimacy of the slave trade were the Quakers, who formed a Committee on the Slave Trade in 1783 and were also prominent in the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade also referred to as the Society for the Abolition of the ...

Article

Abraham  

Kenny A. Franks

also known as “Prophet,” was a runaway slave who became a prominent leader among the Seminole. Nothing is known about his parents or childhood. Fleeing his master, Abraham escaped south into Florida, and was eventually adopted into the Seminole tribe, with whom he enjoyed considerable status. In 1826 he accompanied a tribal delegation to Washington, D.C., and became an influential counselor to Micanopy, a leading Seminole leader. The Seminole, or Florida Indians, once were a part both of the Muskogee (Creek) nation that had been driven out of Georgia by the early English colonists, and also of the Oconee and Yamasee tribes that had been driven out of the Carolinas following the Yamasee uprising of 1715. They had first settled among the Lower Creeks in the Florida Panhandle and created a haven for runaway slaves. Indeed, Semino'le is the Creek word for “runaway.”

In 1818Andrew Jackson led ...

Article

The phenomenon of African former slaves returning to their original homes has thus far not received the attention it deserves. Pierre Verger has done much work on the relationship between Brazil and West Africa, and several others have written on the subject. More needs to be done, however, to clarify the motivations and the influences that determined the former slaves’ attitudes and reactions on returning to their home areas.

This essay examines the attitudes, occupations, and contributions of Brazilian returnees to West Africa in the nineteenth century. Their stay in Brazil so affected them that they behaved more like Brazilians than Africans on the West African coast. For this reason, in this essay they are called “Brazilians.”

The term however is not completely accurate because the Brazilian communities included people of different origins some having had little or no connection with Brazil Some were men who had been former officials ...

Article

Afro-Colombians (Colombians of African descent) were invisible in the 1886 constitution that ruled Colombia for over 100 years. By 1990, after centuries of marginalization and discrimination, Afro-Colombian organizations emerged as a political force. They denounced implicit racial discrimination and demanded that the constitutional reform take ethnic identity into account without restricting their rights to equality. The black movement received support from representatives of indigenous groups and of the progressive left. Both groups had representatives in the Constitutional Assembly, formed in 1990 to rewrite the constitution.

Article

Diane Mutti Burke

fugitive slave, was born near Richmond, Virginia, on a plantation owned by the Delaney family. Despite his memories of being well treated, his father, Aleck, was sold to pay his master's debts and taken south. Rev. Delaney justified Aleck's sale by claiming that the literate slave had shared ideas about freedom with other slaves in the neighborhood. When Rev. Delaney died in 1831, Alexander's mother, Chloe, was left to Mrs. Delaney, and eighteen-year-old Alexander was left to the master's son, Thomas. Chloe Alexander died six months after Thomas Delaney took her son with him to Missouri.

Delaney settled in western St Charles County Missouri where Alexander married a local slave woman named Louisa He later sold Alexander to Louisa s master Jim Hollman when he moved from the state and the couple spent the next twenty years living with their growing family on the Hollman farm Alexander was ...

Article

Amador  

Gerhard Seibert

was the leader of a major slave revolt in 1595, which almost succeeded in defeating the Portuguese colonial authorities in São Tomé. The hitherto uninhabited island of São Tomé was discovered by Portuguese navigators around 1471, but the successful colonization of the island began only in 1493, when Portuguese colonists established sugarcane plantations to be worked by African slaves brought from the neighboring continent. In the sixteenth century the local sugar industry prospered; however, the island was marked by continuous political instability provoked by frequent power struggles among the governor, the Catholic bishop, and the town council, which was dominated by the sugar planters. Amador was a Creole slave, that is, a slave born on the island.

From the beginning slavery provoked resistance and smaller slave uprisings occurred before and after Amador s revolt In addition gangs of runaway slaves locally known as macambos established maroon communities ...

Article

Amistad  

Elizabeth R. Purdy

On 28 June 1839 the schooner La Amistad sailed from Havana, Cuba, en route to Puerto Príncipe, carrying fifty-three Africans, including four children. These so-called slaves were in fact free Africans who had been stolen from their homes in West Africa and brought to Cuba. Two Spanish planters, José Ruiz and Pedro Montes, purchased them, gave them Spanish names, and falsely labeled them as native Cubans. After the schooner's cook jokingly told them that they were to be “killed, salted, and cooked,” the Africans decided to revolt. Three days after setting sail, the captives Joseph Cinqué and Grabeau led the Africans in using wood and knives to overpower the crew. During the battle three Africans as well as the schooner's captain and cook were killed.

After the revolt the Africans ordered theAmistad crew to return them to Africa However the Spaniards secretly turned the ship around each ...

Article

Carolyn Williams

In 1839, in violation of Spanish law, Spanish slave traders transported over forty enslaved Africans to Cuba. Here they were transferred to another vessel, the Amistad. After a mutiny led by an African named Cinque from the Mendi tribe in Nigeria, the blacks seized the vessel and ordered surviving crew members to return to Africa. Instead, a U.S. warship seized the vessel off Long Island and towed it to New London, Connecticut. Spain demanded the return of the mutineers to Cuba for trial; the Amistad's owners, citing Pinckney's Treaty of 1795 between the United States and Spain, demanded the return of the vessel and its cargo, including the Africans.

Abolitionists formed an Amistad committee and hired lawyer Roger Baldwin to defend the Africans. A federal judge in Hartford declared the blacks free, since the slave traders' action had been illegal, and instructed President Martin Van Buren ...

Article

Alonford James Robinson

Although England and Spain had signed a treaty in 1817 prohibiting the transatlantic slave trade, a group of African Mende were captured in an area near Sierra Leone in April 1839 and forced onto a Portuguese slave ship bound for Havana, Cuba. To avoid prosecution for breaking international law, the captives were smuggled onto the island at night when the ship reached Cuba. While in Havana, fifty-three Africans (forty-nine adult males, three girls, and one boy) were sold to two Spaniards, José Ruiz and Pedro Montes, who intended to use them as slaves on Cuban plantations. On June 28 1839, the Africans were loaded aboard the Spanish schooner La Amistad as it set sail along the Cuban coast for Puerto Príncipe. On La Amistad's fourth day at sea, a few of the captives were allowed to come on deck for exercise. One of them, Joseph Cinque found a ...

Article

Lorenz Graham

Born in Pennsylvania of free parents, Anderson attended Oberlin College, in Ohio, and as a young man he worked as a printer. His education and skill made him valuable to white American abolitionist John Brown, whom he met in the spring of 1858 in Chatham, Ontario, in Canada. Anderson was the only member of the party who took part in the heaviest of the fighting at Harpers Ferry and escaped. He lived to give the only eyewitness account of the raid in his book A Voice from Harper's Ferry (1861).

In Chatham, Brown had set up an organization of white and black men who wanted to take direct action against slavery. Former slaves who had settled in Canada and free blacks met with Brown and his men, who had shared in an attack on proslavery extremists in Kansas in 1856 Anderson served as recording secretary at ...

Article

Steven J. Niven

abolitionist, was born in West Fallowfield Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania, the son of Vincent Anderson, a free black man. Both Osborne and his father are listed in the U.S. census as “mulatto.” Osborne's mother, according to family lore, was a white woman of Irish or Scottish descent. Osborne Anderson attended the public schools of Chester County and may have studied at Oberlin College in Ohio in the 1850s, although the university has no official record of him doing so.

The most significant development in Anderson's early life was the passage by the U.S. Congress in 1850 of the Fugitive Slave Act which made it a federal offense to harbor escaped slaves Many free blacks in the North as well as slaves who had escaped bondage and sought refuge in the free states immediately made plans to flee to Canada fearing that they would be captured by slave ...

Primary Source

The document below is excerpted from a letter addressed to Hugh Brown of Robeson County, North Carolina, dated 26 June 1821. The text appears at the bottom of a letter originally written by John Fort Jr. of Wayne County. Historian John Hope Franklin, in his book The Free Negro in North Carolina 1790–1860 posits that one of Fort s slaves wrote this message on a letter originally intended for Brown in order to ask Brown for religious instruction and inclusion in Christian worship services Adding to the confusion is the fact that the message begins with Master John still the subject matter suggests that Brown is the intended recipient This hidden message is evidence of the desire among many slaves to participate in the local religion and the resistance they faced from whites Though some churches at least attempted to provide separate services and classes for slaves and free ...

Article

Anton  

Jean Mutaba Rahier

In 1553 Anton and twenty-two other slaves embarked from Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, as part of merchandise bound for the Peruvian port of Callao. The ship wrecked off the coast of Esmeraldas, and the twenty-three slaves killed their Spanish captors and escaped into the forest.

At that time various small indigenous groups inhabited central Esmeraldas: the Niguas, Yumbos, Campaces, Lachas, and Malabas. The first contact of the maroons was with the Niguas and the Yumbos. As the groups clashed, the maroons enjoyed an advantage in combat, owing to the surprise provoked by their arrival and the firearms they had liberated from the shipwreck. Anton was nicknamed “the big sorcerer,” and his witchcraft skills were also a decisive factor in instilling fear into the Niguas and gaining their respect.

Through Anton's leadership the maroons increasingly dominated the indigenous communities. Sebastian Alonso de Illescas gradually established himself as Anton s ...

Article

Rob Garrison

José Antonio Aponte, a free black man, worked as a carpenter and a wood carver in Havana, Cuba, before taking the role of revolutionary leader. Like many other Afro-Cubans in the early 1800s, he was discontented with the continuation of slavery and Spanish dominance that kept blacks from freedom. Afro-Cubans had already supported an unsuccessful independence movement in 1810, and had their hopes raised when Spanish courts briefly considered ending slavery. Once this proposal was rejected, blacks knew that freedom could be achieved only through their own means. Aponte seized this opportunity and proceeded to gather both the free and enslaved blacks of Havana in 1811 to form the Central Revolutionary Junta. The group quickly expanded and established smaller units throughout Cuba. Aponte solicited the help of Haitian general Jean François, who promised support for the proposed revolt.

Aponte s intention was not only to end Afro ...

Primary Source

Henry Bibb (1815–1854) survived a life of slavery more harrowing than most. Born in Kentucky and sold multiple times to increasingly cruel and negligent masters, Bibb willed himself to endure for the sake of his wife Malinda and their family. Bibb managed to escape, but was recaptured when he returned for Malinda and their child. He then spent time in a labor prison before being sold to another master. After making a final escape, Bibb spent years trying to retrieve Malinda, only to discover in 1845 that she had been sold as a concubine to a new slaveholder. From that dismal point, Bibb’s career as an abolitionist began in earnest. He published his story, Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb, An American Slave, in 1849, and founded an abolitionist newspaper Voice of the Fugitive in 1851.

Due to his difficult experiences it is not surprising that ...

Article

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Frederick Douglass first encountered the Auld family as a young child; he was transferred to their household when his first owner, Aaron Anthony, fell ill. Thomas Auld was married to Anthony's daughter, and Douglass would become Auld's legal property following Anthony's death. After escaping from slavery, Douglass raged against the Auld family in some of his published writings, using them as the model of cruel slave owners, but he reconciled with Thomas Auld more than a decade after the Civil War ended.

Information about the personalities and dispositions of Auld family members is discerned almost entirely from Douglass's writings; little independent confirmation of his descriptions exists. Records suggest that the Auld family immigrated to America before the Revolutionary War, when Hugh Auld Sr. fought with Maryland's Talbot County Militia. His son, Hugh Auld Jr., served in the War of 1812 as a lieutenant colonel with the Twenty sixth ...

Article

Bahia  

Aaron Myers

Of all the states in Brazil, Bahia has maintained the strongest ties with Africa and African culture. During the first two centuries of the colonial era, Bahia absorbed most of the slaves imported to Brazil. At this time, the slaves came to constitute a majority of Bahia's population and exerted a proportional effect on the developing character of the state. Today, Bahia's traditions and customs are living testimony to the enormous influence of Africans and their descendants.

Article

Leigh Fought

Ruth Cox Adams, a fugitive slave from Maryland, adopted the name Harriet Bailey and lived with Frederick Douglass and his family from 1844 to 1847. Ruth Cox was born in Easton, Maryland, sometime between 1818 and 1822. Her father was an unknown free black man who disappeared after he went to Baltimore in search of better wages during Ruth's childhood. Her mother, Ebby Cox, was a slave in the Easton household of John Leeds Kerr, a lawyer who represented Maryland first in the House of Representatives (1825–1829 and 1831–1833) and then in the Senate (1841–1843).

When Kerr died in February 1844 he left instructions for all his property to be sold, including the slaves, and for the proceeds to be used to pay his debts. This turn of events probably prompted Ruth to flee north. By August 1844 she was ...