The Stono Rebellion of 1739
Of all the slave rebellions of the seventeen hundreds, the Stono Rebellion would come to be known as the largest and most violent, and would have the most dramatic effects on the government’s regulation and surveillance of enslaved African-Americans. There are several speculated causes of the insurrection, one of which being the Security Act of 1739; stating that men should bear weapons during church services as a precaution against slaves. Another possible cause was the frustration with the ineffectiveness of the government in that region, due to a recent epidemic. Though the exact cause is not clear, the purpose of the rebellion is evident: rumor of escaped slaves obtaining freedom and land by crossing into Spanish-controlled Florida had reached the ears of the slaves of Carolina and their intent was to march all the way there, and slaughter anyone who got in their way.
The leader of the rebellion was an educated, Angolan slave named Jemmy. Angolan meaning he was probably from the kingdom of Kongo in Central Africa. Researchers believe that Jemmy, and several of his followers from the same area, had experience with firearms due to Kongo's suppression of the Mbamba revolt. Jemmy and about 20 other slaves met near the Stono River on September 9, 1739. At a nearby store, they seized firearms and ammunition and killed the white shop keepers, thus beginning the trail of destruction and murder.
They raised a flag and marched onward toward their freedom, burning houses and killing white opponents. On the way they gathered more recruits, their numbers grew to roughly sixty to one hundred slaves. On their journey, they claimed around eighty lives. It is rumored that at one tavern, the insurgents spared the life of the innkeeper because he was known to be good to his slaves. But the march was short-lived. Late that afternoon, a large group of white men on horseback, led by Lt. William Bull, caught up to the renegade slaves. Forty of...
Library of Congress on:
The Stono Rebellion
Calling Out Liberty
The Stono Slave Rebellion and the Universal Struggle for Human Rights
By Jack Shuler
“Jemmy and the Stono Rebellion”
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