The United States 1500s--Early 1900s
South Carolina, 1526: First Slave Revolt
South Carolina Slaves, Watercolor by Unknown Artist
Maryland, 1664: Legal Repression
In addition to the direct evidence for a large number of slave revolts in the United States is the indirect evidence found in the white man’s laws that legalized branding, flogging, burning, the amputation of limbs, hamstringing, other gruesome tortures, and death to punish resistance.
Massive successful revolts did not happen in the United States the way they did in Latin America and the Caribbean, Jamaica, Surinam, and Brazil, especially in the area of Bahia, had constant rebellion.
Historian Eugene Genovese has enumerated some of the reasons for the differences. It was not that slavery was somehow more humane in the United States, or that the slaves liked their oppression there. The difference lies rather in the conditions surrounding the plantations—the terrain, the ration of whites to slaves, etc.
Genovese’s analysis suggests that if certain conditions were present there was a higher probability of a slave revolt:
- absenteeism and depersonalization in the master-slave relationship;
- economic distress and famine;
- a large concentration of slaves;
- splits in the ruling class;
- blacks heavily outnumbering whites;
- African-born slaves outnumbering native-born ones (Creoles);
- a slave-holding structure that allowed the emergence of an autonomous black leadership; and
- a geographical, social and political environment providing the terrain and opportunity for maroon communities that could last long enough to threaten the plantation culture (Genovese, 11-12).
Stono, South Carolina, 1739: “Liberty”
New York City, 1741: A Mob Attacks
On the Seas, 1839: The Amistad
Boston, 1829: Walker’s Appeal
Buffalo, New York, 1843: Four Million
Georgia to Philadelphia, 1848: Masquerade
Massachusetts, 1851: Shadrach
New York, 1857: Liberty Born of Struggle
The South, 1873: Reconstruction
Chicago, 1901: Ida B. Wells
United States, 1904: Causes of Lynching
Lynching is the aftermath of slavery. The white men who shoot Negroes to death and flay them while alive, and the white women who apply flaming torches to their oil-soaked bodies today, are the sons and daughters of women who had but little, if any, compassion on the race when it was enslaved….
Washington D.C., 1913: Jubilee
This is the fiftieth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the year of jubilee. President Woodrow Wilson orders the segregation of restaurants, offices, and facilities in the Post Office, Treasury, Interior Department, and Library of Congress. In four years he will lead the United States into World War I, in order to “make the world safe for democracy.”
Today he greets an African American delegation saying: Segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit and ought to be so regarded by you gentlemen.
Stereotypes, Distortions and Omissions, 28