Black Resistance To Slavery Essay, Research Paper
African-Americans resisted slavery in a couple of different ways. They had slave uprisings, spoke out against slavery, and also they ran away from slavery through the Underground Railroad. One way more than the rest helped the white community to realize that the African-Americans were willing to give up their lives for this cause. That these were people, not animals and that a war was on its way. This was shown through the numerous slave revolts.
Denmark Vesey was sold first as a slave in 1781 to a Bermuda captain named Joseph Vesey ( Denmark Vesey 1). Denmark assumed his master s surname and accompanied him on numerous voyages, and in 1783 Denmark settled with his owner in Charleston ( Denmark Vesey 1). Denmark won a street lottery and he bought his own freedom ( Denmark Vesey 1). He then became a carpenter and he had trouble working with all of the other white workers ( Denmark Vesey 1). He was an educated man and he already knew of the great Haitian slave revolt of the 1790s ( Denmark Vesey 1). He resented the continued enslavement of his children and his second class treatment on the job ( Denmark Vesey 1). He was determined to do something about slavery and the overall treatment of African-Americans ( Denmark Vesey 1). Vesey planned and organized an uprising of city and plantation blacks ( Denmark Vesey 1). The plan called for the rebels to attack guardhouses and arsenals, seize their arms, kill whites, burn and destroy the city, and free the slaves on the night of June 16, 1822 ( Denmark Vesey 1). As many as 9,000 blacks may have been involved with this plan ( Denmark Vesey 1). The only problem was that a house servant over heard the plan and brought it to white authorities ( Denmark Vesey 1). These authorities made massive military preparations, which prevented the insurrection ( Denmark Vesey 1). During the ensuing two months, some 130 blacks were arrested ( Denmark Vesey 1). In the trials that followed, 67 were convicted of trying to raise an insurrection; of these, 35, including Vesey, were hanged, and 32 were condemned to exile ( Denmark Vesey 1). In addition, four white men were fined and imprisoned for encouraging the plot ( Denmark Vesey 1).
The only effective, sustained slave uprising was led by American bondsman Nat Turner ( Nat Turner 1). Nat Turner was born the property of a prosperous small-plantation owner in a remote area of Virginia ( Nat Turner 1). His mother was an African native who passed on a passionate hatred of slavery to her son ( Nat Turner 1). He learned to read from one of the master s sons, and eagerly absorbed intensive religious training ( Nat Turner 1). In the early 1820s he was sold to a neighboring farmer ( Nat Turner 1). During the following decade he became very religious and he saw himself called upon by God to lead his people out of bondage ( Nat Turner 1). He began to exert a powerful influence on many of the nearby slaves, who called him the Prophet ( Nat Turner 1). In 1831, shortly after he had been sold again, he saw a sign in the form of an eclipse of the Sun ( Nat Turner 1). This caused Nat Turner to believe that the time was near to strike back against the whites ( Nat Turner 1). His plan was to capture the armory at the country seat, Jerusalem, and, having gathered many recruits, to press on to the Dismal Swamp, where capture would be difficult ( Nat Turner 1). On the night of August 21, together with seven fellow slaves in whom he had put his trust, he launched his campaign, murdering his owner and his family in their sleep and then setting forth on a bloody march toward Jerusalem. In two days and nights about 60 white people were slain ( Nat Turner 1). Doomed from the start, Turner s insurrection was handicapped by lack of discipline among his followers and by the fact that only 75 blacks rallied to his cause ( Nat Turner 1). Armed resistance from the local whites and the arrival of the state militia, about 3,000 men, provided the final crushing blow ( Nat Turner 1). Only a few miles from the country seat the rebels were dispersed and either killed or captured, and many innocent slaves were massacred in the hysteria that followed ( Nat Turner 1). Turner eluded his pursuers for six weeks but finally was captured and hanged ( Nat Turner 1).
By the summer of 1859, John Brown had finalized his plans for attack. His target was the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia ( Harpers Ferry 1). This town is surrounded by mountains and tucked in at the bottom of a ravine created by a pair of rivers ( Harpers Ferry 1). The arsenal was a huge complex of buildings that contained 100,000 muskets and rifles ( Harpers Ferry 1). Brown found and recruited 21 men to join him ( Harpers Ferry 1). In a farm house a few miles outside of Harpers Ferry, the small army gathered and waited for the time to strike ( Harpers Ferry 1). Brown was asked to postpone the launch, though, because one of his followers had threatened to reveal the plan ( John Brown 1). So now in 1859 Brown had been in hiding for one year and he and his men were eager to attack ( Harpers Ferry 1). Many of the men that he had recruited the previous year had changed their minds, moved away, or simply did not think that the plan would work ( John Brown 1). Even Henry Highland Garnet, the radical abolitionist who advocated insurrection did not have faith in the plan ( John Brown 1). Brown also met with Frederick Douglas in August of 1859, when Brown told his friend of his intentions and plans ( John Brown 1). Douglas responded saying that Brown was making a grave mistake. Your walking into a perfect steel trap that you will never walk out of alive. He told Brown ( John Brown 2). On the evening of October 16, Brown gathered his men and together they set out for Harpers Ferry ( Harpers Ferry 1). At first the raid went smoothly ( Harpers Ferry 1). They cut telegraph wires, then easily captured the federal armory and arsenal, which was being defended by a lone watchman ( Harpers Ferry 1). They rounded up hostages from the town, about 60 in total ( John Brown 2). Then the problems began when a train approached town ( Harpers Ferry 1). The baggage master ran to warn the passengers ( Harpers Ferry 1). Brown s men shouted at him to halt, then fired and killed the fist victim of Harpers Ferry, a free black man. ( Harpers Ferry 1). Then, bizarrely, Brown allowed the train to continue on its way ( Harpers Ferry 1). News of his raid made its way to Washington by late mourning ( Harpers Ferry 1). Farmers, militiamen, and shopkeepers took potshots down at Brown s men from the heights behind town ( Harpers Ferry 1). The raiders were pinned down in the armory buildings ( Harpers Ferry 2). At noon, a company of militiamen stormed into town ( Harpers Ferry 2). They charged over the bridge, and the only true escape route was gone ( Harpers Ferry 2). Eight raiders were dead or dying; five others were cut off ( Harpers Ferry 2). Two others had escaped across the river ( Harpers Ferry 2). Brown gathered those who were left in a small brick building, the engine house ( Harpers Ferry 2). The next morning, the raiders woke up to a terrifying sight; the armory yard was lined with a company of U.S. Marines, under the command of Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee. Brown and his men were completely surrounded ( Harpers Ferry 2). A young lieutenant, J.E.B. Stuart, approached under a white flag ( Harpers Ferry 2). Stuart handed over a note: if the raiders surrendered, their lives would be spared ( Harpers Ferry 2). Brown refused the negotiations ( Harpers Ferry 2). Marines stormed the building; the door was breached ( Harpers Ferry 2). One Marine tried to run Brown through, but the blade struck the old man s belt buckle ( Harpers Ferry 2). Brown was then beaten unconscious ( Harpers Ferry 2). John Brown was taken to Charleston, Virginia along with four other captives ( Harpers Ferry 2). His statements during his trial reached the nation, inspiring many with his righteous indignation toward slavery ( Harpers Ferry 2). The hanging would make Brown an abolitionist martyr ( Harpers Ferry 2). John Brown’s dedication to the abolition of slavery prompted Frederick Douglas to write the following: “Did John Brown fail? John Brown began the war that ended American slavery and made this a free Republic. His zeal in the cause of my race was far greater than mine. I could live for the slave, but he could die for him ( Harpers Ferry 2).
Nat Turner Yahoo. 2001 http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=75803&tocid=0 (5/20/01).
Denmark Vesey Yahoo. 2001. http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=77148&tocid=0 (5/20/01).
Harpers Ferry Yahoo. 2001. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/brown/peopleevents/pande09.html (5/20/01).
John Brown Yahoo. 2001. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4p2940.html (5/20/01)