CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY: REVOLTS, REBELLIONS, AND UPRISINGS

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CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY: REVOLTS, REBELLIONS, AND UPRISINGS

Racial Revolts, Rebellions and Uprisings against Black injustices the USA has been a distinct part of American history since 17th Century at the formation the country. In 1669, Virginia became the first colony to declare that it was not a crime to kill an unruly slave in the ordinary course of punishment.  Since then, Blacks have been subjected to countless violent racial injustices.  The ugly stained history of USA have shown numerous incidents where whites have targeted blacks and other racialized groups exploitation and cruelty.  However, blacks have rebelled again and again against their assailants ranging from revolts of the enslaved to recent world-wide protests of the slaying of George Floyd.  The following are a few lesser known uprisings in which many paid the ultimate sacrifice for Racial Justice and Equality.

The New York Slave Revolt of 1712: During the 18th century, New York City was a major hub for the North American slave trade.  Unlike the sprawling slave plantations of the south where slaves were often kept separate from free people, New Yorkers lived nearly neck-and-neck, even in the city’s early days.  That meant in the densely populated New York, slaves and free people often worked and lived side-by-side. Not only did that breed resentment among the city’s slaves, but it was much easier for them to communicate with each other in larger numbers.  On the night of April 6, 1712, a group of approximately 23 slaves African-born slaves took up arms and revolted against their captors.  During the insurrection, at least nine white slave holders were killed and another six wounded. Though the rebels fled the city, local militias and soldiers from a nearby fort were quickly organized to hunt them down. In the end, 27 people were captured.   Six men committed suicide rather than face trial. Though a handful of the captured slaves were spared, the majority were sentenced to brutal, public executions, including being burned alive and being hung by chains in the center of town.

The STONO Rebellion (aka: Cato’s Rebellion):  On Sunday, September 9th, 1739 the colony of South Carolina was shaken by a slave uprising that culminated with the death of sixty people. Led by an Angolan named Jemmy, a band of twenty slaves organized a rebellion on the banks of the Stono River. After breaking into a local store and arming themselves with guns and other weapons, the group call for their freedom.  As they marched, overseers were killed and other slaves joined the rebellion. The group reached the Edisto River where white colonists descended upon them, killing most of the rebels.  The survivors were sold off to the West Indies.  It was the largest slave rebellion in the British mainland at that time with 25 White colonists and more than 35 enslaved Blacks killed.

Nat Turner’s Rebellion, 1831:  On August 22, 1831, Nat Turner and about 70 armed slaves and free blacks set off to slaughter the white neighbors who enslaved them.  In the early hours of the morning, they bludgeoned Turner’s master and his master’s wife and children with axes. By the end of the next day, the rebels had attacked about 15 homes and killed between 55 and 60 whites. As news of the murders and the insurrection spread, a white militia hunt to capture the insurrectionists.  Most of the rebels were captured quickly, but Turner eluded authorities for more than a month.

On Sunday, Oct. 30, a local white man stumbled upon Turner’s hideout and seized him. A special Virginia court tried him on Nov. 5 and sentenced him to hang six days later.  Enraged whites took his body, skinned it, distributed parts as souvenirs and rendered his remains into grease.  It is reported that his head was removed and for a time sat in the biology department of Wooster College in Ohio.  Of his fellow rebels, 21 went to the gallows, and another 16 were sold away from the region.  Nat Turner remains a legendary figure, remembered for his heroism the path he forged in his personal war against the evil institution of slavery.

The Houston Mutiny of 1917 (24th Infantry): By the time the U.S. entered World War I, black soldiers and white  southern civilians had a history of hostile relations dating back more than fifty years.  The same was true at Camp Logan in Texas where the men of the The Third Battalion Twenty-fourth U.S. Infantry Regiment faced increasing harassment from Houston authorities.  On August 23, 1917, a rumor reached the camp that Corporal Charles Baltimore had been killed for interfering with the detention and interrogation of a black woman by Houston police; in fact, Baltimore had been beaten but survived and was later released.  Reacting to the rumor and to racial discrimination, about 156 black troops marched for two hours through Houston.  As local whites armed themselves, a violent confrontation ensued that claimed the lives of four black soldiers and fifteen local residents, and wounded a dozen others. 

In November, a court-martial convened and 13 soldiers from the 24th Infantry were convicted and later executed by hanging on December 11.  The following year, two additional courts-martial were held and another sixteen sentenced to hang.  Responding to pressure from black leaders, President Woodrow Wilson commuted the death sentences of ten of the condemned men.  In total, nearly sixty soldiers received life imprisonment for their roles in the affair.  The Houston Mutiny anticipated the “Red Summer” riots of 1919 in which many African American servicemen retaliated against white supremacist mistreatment.



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