African American Resistance

Nat Turner Rebellion African resistance began in Africa, continued on board the slave ships, and then resumed upon touching the shore of the land the Europeans called America. The African American resistance communities formed in the inaccessible areas of this hemisphere by runaway slaves is a testament to the courage and ingenuity of men and women struggling … Continued

Nat Turner Rebellion African resistance began in Africa, continued on board the slave ships, and then resumed upon touching the shore of the land the Europeans called America. The African American resistance communities formed in the inaccessible areas of this hemisphere by runaway slaves is a testament to the courage and ingenuity of men and women struggling for freedom at any cost. African American resistance has been constant and multi-leveled. American resistance has been constant and multi-leveled. The selections try to show that variety and tenacity, from the anonymous woman rebel on the slave ship “Robert” to the women of Montgomery, Alabama, who were the power behind the successful bus boycott that ignited the civil rights movement; from the Jamaican resistance leader Nanny to Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.




Indigenous Resistance, North and South

The indigenous population, after an initial welcome to the Europeans, began a defense of their lives and land that continues today. We have selected some of the more heroic and successful of those efforts, including the great Araucanian resistance that defeated the Spaniards for three hundred years, keeping their lands in what is now southern Chile from colonization. But even when the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Apache nations succumbed to military firepower, a spirit of resistance could not be extinguished. Eighty years after the supposed final battle of the “Indian Wars,” a new native militancy rose up at Wounded Knee, the very site of that last battle, successfully challenging white domination and igniting a new sense of dignity and honor among native peoples. In the Andean region that is now Peru and Bolivia, the eighteenth century was a time of upheaval marked by small and great rebellions. We introduce some of the leaders, including Juan Santos Atahualpa, Tupace Amaru II, and Micaela Bastidas. In the nineteenth century it was Mexico’s turn, as the country erupted in 142 recorded village riots and revolts involving campesinos demanding land and justice. These rebellions that first lead to Mexican independence in the early part of the nineteenth century culminated with the Mexican Revolution at the dawn of the twentieth.





Resistance Today
One example among many is the struggle to save the rainforest of Brazil. All of the elements of the first invasion are
being re-enacted there. Its final fate has become important to the whole world as scientists are realizing the sustaining
effect that the world’s largest forest has on the ecosphere. Who wins that struggle may well determine the fate of the
whole earth.

Pre-Reading Strategies

The selections that follow try to inspire hope; demonstrate that courage was not the sole domain of men or famous
leaders; give voice to the anonymous bands of rebels whose names are lost to us, but whose deeds remain; and show
that defeat of the rebels has never been final, but has only served to push history to the next state where resistance
emerges once again. Whatever measure of liberty or civil rights that we enjoy today was, in large part, won by these

We have certainly inherited the winds of destruction, but we are also free to claim the legacy of resistance. Untold
people have been killed but multitudes have risen up to take their places.

American Revolutions and Resistance  

Quickly brainstorm a list of events and people that come to mind when you think of revolution in the Americas. Discuss in a group or individually write about your present knowledge of resistance and revolution. Review what you learned in school about revolutionaries in the United States, in Latin America, and among “minorities” on this continent. Or you might sketch a timeline to indicate any revolutions or rebellions you can remember and when they happened.

The Three R’s: Resistance, Revolt and Revolution

Consider why it is that individuals or groups “resist.” Brainstorm occasions when you or your group would resist. Consider the following questions? 

  • What would be your rationale for resisting?
  • How would you go about planning your resistance?
  • What form would your resistance take?
  • What might be some differences, if any, between resistance and spontaneous revolts?
  • What is the connection between revolt and revolution?

African American Resisters

The introduction to this section of the book which follows, states, “The invasion of this hemisphere was not a single event or a series of events of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century. The invasion and destructionhas been constant for over five hundred years.” So has been the history of resistance by indigenous people of the Americas and African Americans who were forcibly transported to these shores. Although they have not been portrayed prominently in traditional history, African Americans have nonetheless played a significant role throughout the history of the Americas. Below are names mentioned in this part of the book. Review the names and list as many facts about each person or group that you have learned from conventional history. Some names may be new to you. After completing the reading of this section of the book, return to this exercise and review the names again, listing facts for each.After doing this exercise, reflect on/discuss the following: 

  • How many of these individuals appear in traditional textbooks?
  • How is your understanding o history altered when you read about people such as these who have been significant in resistance and yet have never been recognized for their involvement in history?
  • Why may many of us not have heard of these significant persons in American history?
Joseph CinqueToussaint L’OuvertureFrançois Macandal
Jean-Jacques DessalinesMary Church TerrellMaroons
Frederick DouglasTombaMadison Washington
W.E.D. DuBoisNathaniel TurnerIda B. Wells
Henry Highland GarnetDenmark Vesey 

Parallel Timelines

As you read through this entire chapter, develop parallel chronologies of resistance in different parts of the Americas (African American and Caribbean resistance, indigenous resistance throughout the Americas, and the more recent Central American/Mexican resistance). Against these three parallel timelines develop a fourth timeline of the events and periods of American history typically covered in American history classes. Use these timelines to organize your awareness of movements and issues in American history and world history.


The United States 1500s--Early 1900s

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