by ABS Staff
Nat Turner’s Revolution
Nat Turner’s rebellion, also called the Southampton Insurrection, is probably the most famous slave uprising in North America. The revolt was brilliantly planned by Turner and took place August 1831 in Southampton County, Virginia. The Turner-led group of ”freedom fighters” killed up to 65 people of European descent, the highest number of fatalities caused by a slave uprising in the American South. Though the rebellion was quelled within a few days, Turner survived in hiding for more than two months afterward.
The most successful slave uprising in the Western Hemisphere was the Haitian Revolution, which began in 1791. Dutty Boukman, an educated enslaved African from Jamaica who was sold to a French slave master in Haiti, organized and started the revolution that was eventually led the French to banned slavery on the island. Later, military mastermind Toussaint L’Ouverture led the revolution as the France, Britain, and Spain, governments tried to colonize Haiti and re-establish slavery. During the war, which culminated in the first independent black country in 1804, 100,000 French and British soldiers were killed.
THE ZANJ REVOLT
The largest revolt by enslaved Africans was ignited by the Zanj against Arab slavers. The Zanj or Zinj were the inhabitants of the land along the coast of East Africa. They were traded as slaves by Arabs and were made to work in the cruel and humid saltpans of Shatt-al-Arab, near Basra in modern-day Iraq. Conscious of their large numbers and oppressive working conditions, the Zanj rebelled three times.
The largest of these rebellions lasted from 868 to 883 A.D., during which they inflicted repeated defeat on Arab armies sent to suppress the revolt. For some 14 years, they continued to achieve remarkable military victories and even built their own capital–Moktara, the Elect City.
New York Slave Revolt of 1712
The New York Slave Revolt of 1712 happened in New York City, when 23 enslaved Africans killed nine people of European descent and injured six more. The slaves planned and organized the revolt on the night of April 6, 1712. After setting fire to a building on Maiden Lane near Broadway, they waited for colonists to rush to put out the flames, then proceeded to attack them.
The First Maroon War
In 1739, the Jamaican Maroons were the first enslaved Africans to win their freedom from European slave masters. During the First Maroon War, they fought and escaped slavery and established free communities in the mountainous interior of the island. For 76 years, there were periodic skirmishes between the British and the Maroons, alongside occasional slave revolts.
Eventually, the British government and slave holders realized they couldn’t defeat the Maroons, so they came up with a peace treaty that allowed them to live in their own free states in Jamaica. As a result, the Maroons established their five main towns: Accompong, Trelawny Town, Moore Town, Scots Hall, and Nanny Town.
Anglo-Asante Wars (Ghana)
Nowhere in West Africa was there a longer tradition of confrontation between African and European powers than in the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana), between the Asante Kingdom and the British. England’s efforts to extend its economic and political influence into the interior of the Gold Coast were met with stiff resistance from the Asante.
For nearly a hundred years (1806-1901), the Asante Kingdom defended its interests and freedom through a series of victories in battles with the British and other Europeans. The British finally defeated the Asante with superior weaponry and Nigerian warriors in Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa’s War of the Golden Stool in 1901.
This victory paved the way for British colonial rule over the entire Gold Coast, but the Queen Mother managed to keep the Golden Stool safe from the British.
The Amistad Revolt
In 1839, Africans took control of the Spanish slave boat called La Amistad while sailing along the coast of Cuba. The African captives, led by Joseph Cinque, escaped their shackles and killed many of the crew, but spared a few to sail the ship back to their home to Sierra Leone. However, the crew tricked them, sailing north where they were apprehended near Long Island, New York. After a highly publicized court trial, the African captives were released as free men.
The Malê Revolt
The Malê Revolt (1835), also known as The Great Revolt, is possibly the most significant slave rebellion in Brazil. Brazilian Yoruba slaves and ex-slaves, who were inspired by Dutty Boukman, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and the Haitian Revolution (1791−1804), wore necklaces with the image of Haitian President Dessalines as they fought for their freedom. When the smoke cleared, the Portuguese authorities feared that they would lose control of Brazil, as the French did in Haiti, and they quickly sent the surviving 500 fighters of the revolt back to Africa.
When Zanzibar was granted independence by Britain in 1963, a series of parliamentary elections reserved two-thirds of the seats for Arabs and Indians. Frustrated by under-representation in Parliament despite winning 54 percent of the vote in the July 1963 election, the mainly African Afro-Shirazi Party joined forces with the left-wing Umma Party. Early on the morning of Jan. 12, 1964, ASP member John Okello mobilized approximately 600 to 800 revolutionaries on the main island of Unguja (Zanzibar Island). They overran the country’s police force and confiscated their weaponry. The insurgents then overthrew the Sultan and his government. Reprisals against Arab and South Asian civilians on the island left a death toll ranging from several hundred to 20,000.
The Stono Revolution, also known as Cato’s Conspiracy, was a slave revolt that began on Sept. 6, 1739, in the colony of South Carolina. Nearly 60 slaves killed 22 to 25 plantation owners before they were intercepted by the South Carolina militia near Edisto River.
In that battle, the slaves managed to put up a fierce fight, with some of them escaping. The Stono Rebellion was the largest slave uprising in the British mainland colonies prior to the American Revolution.
In 1760, Tacky, a Jamaican slave originally from Ghana, planned and organized an uprising to gain freedom from slavery. On Easter Sunday, Tacky and his army began the revolt, easily took over the plantations, and killed the slave owners.
At the end of the battle, over 60 slave plantation owners were killed before they were able to capture Tacky. However, Tacky’s War didn’t end there. The movement sparked revolutions throughout the island, and it took British forces months to re-establish order.
Battle of Isandhlawana (South Africa)
The people of South Africa have resisted European control since the Dutch and British began invading in the 17th century. In some parts of South Africa, they fought European control until the end of the 19th century. In spite of colonial efforts, Zululand remained free until 1880. In 1879 in a strong show of resistance, a Zulu army under the leadership of King Cetshwayo at Isandhlawana defeated a force of 8,000 European soldiers, killing 1,600. This was the single greatest defeat suffered by the British in all their colonial endeavors in Africa and Asia.
San Miguel de Gualdape
Founded in 1526, San Miguel de Gualdape was the first European settlement inside what is now the United States mainland and where some scholars speculate was near present-day Georgia’s Sapelo Island (McIntosh County, Ga.).
The first group of Africans to set foot in this territory rose up in rebellion and fought their oppressors before fleeing into the interior and presumably settled with the Native Americans. This incident is the first documented slave revolution in North America.
Demerara Revolution of 1823
The Demerara Revolution of 1823 was an uprising involving more than 10,000 slaves and took place in the former colony of Demerara-Essequibo, currently known as Guyana. On Aug. 18, 1823, Jack Gladstone and his father, Quamina, of the Success Plantation, led an army of enslaved Africans to fight against their slave masters for their freedom.
Many plantation owners and slave masters were captured and killed. The uprising had such a strong impact on the British, they pressured their country to accelerate the emancipation of African slaves after enactment of the Slave Trade Act 1807 banned the slave trade.
Battle of Adowa (Ethiopia)
Up until it was briefly held by Italy in 1931 to 1945, Ethiopia was the only African territory that resisted complete colonization by Europeans. Italy did indeed colonize part of ancient Ethiopia, the area along the Red Sea that became known as the independent country, Eritrea. However, under the leadership of Emperor Menelik II, Ethiopia resisted European attempts to colonize all of the country.
Ethiopia won a decisive victory over Italy at the Battle of Adowa in December 1895. During the battle, Menelik’s warriors attacked with a ferocity the Italians couldn’t have imagined. Taking hardly any prisoners, the victors of Battle of Adowa killed 289 Italian officers, 2,918 European soldiers and about 2,000 Askari (Africans who fought on the side of Europeans). Another 954 European troops were missing, while 470 Italians and 958 Askari were wounded. Some 700 Italians and 1,800 Askari fell into the hands of the Ethiopian troops.