North American Slave Revolts
The 1811 German Coast uprising was a revolt of black slaves in parts of the Territory of Orleans on January 8–10, 1811. The uprising occurred on the east bank of the Mississippi River in what is now St. John the Baptist, St. Charlesand Jefferson Parishes, Louisiana. While the slave insurgency was the largest in US history, the rebels killed only two white men. Confrontations with militia and executions after trial killed 95 black people.
Between 64 and 125 enslaved men marched from sugar plantations in and near present-day LaPlace on the German Coast toward the city of New Orleans. They collected more men along the way. Some accounts claimed a total of 200 to 500 slaves participated. During their two-day, twenty-mile march, the men burned five plantation houses (three completely), several sugarhouses, and crops. They were armed mostly with hand tools.
White men led by officials of the territory formed militia companies, and in a battle on January 10 killed 40 to 45 of the escaped slaves while suffering no fatalities themselves, then hunted down and killed several others without trial. Over the next two weeks, white planters and officials interrogated, tried, executed and decapitated an additional 44 escaped slaves who had been captured. Executions were generally by hanging or firing squad. Heads were displayed on pikes to intimidate other slaves.
Renowned lawyer, diplomat, educator, and politician.
Langston was born December 14, 1829, free in Louisa County, Virginia, where his father was a white planter and slaveholder and his mother was an emancipated slave. When both parents died in 1834, Langston received a large inheritance and became financially independent. He was raised by family friends in Ohio. In 1849 he received a B.A. in English, and in 1852, an M.A. in theology, from Oberlin College. He soon became involved in abolition and black rights activities. Unable to enroll in law school because of his race, Langston studied independently and passed the Ohio Bar in 1854. He assisted freedom seekers on their journeys North and organized antislavery societies. He became involved in local government in Oberlin, Ohio, where he practiced law. During the Civil War (1861-1865) Langston recruited for three African American regiments especially the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts and Fifth Ohio Regiments; member of the council of Oberlin 1865-1867; member of the city board of education in 1867 and 1868.
Langston campaigned for black suffrage, which was granted by Congress in 1867. He was appointed inspector general of the Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees, and Abandoned Lands in 1868-1869; traveling throughout the South to ensure that the rights of new freedmen were respected, moved to Washington, D.C., and practiced law.
Langston came to Howard University to organize its Law School, emphasizing racial and gender diversity. He was Law School dean from 1869 through 1876, elected vice president and then acting president of the university in 1872, until 1875. While at Howard, Langston also assisted Republican Senator Charles Sumner from Massachusetts with drafting the civil rights bill that was enacted as the Civil Rights Act of 1875. The 43rd Congress of the United States passed the bill in February 1875 and it was signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1875. He was appointed and commissioned by President Grant a member of the Board of Health of the District of Columbia in 1871; delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1876 and in 1877 appointed by President Hayes, Minister Resident and consul general to Haiti and as chargé d’affaires to the Dominican Republic.
Langston in 1885, returned to Virginia, to became president of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute. In 1888, Langston was urged to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives by fellow Republicans, both black and white. Leaders of the biracial Readjuster Party, which had held political power in Virginia from 1879 to 1883, did not support his candidacy. He ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and won, but his victory was contested for 18 months, leaving him a term of only six months to serve (1890-1891) as the first African American elected to Congress from Virginia. In the next election he was defeated.
In 1890 Langston was named as a member of the board of trustees of St. Paul Normal and Industrial School, a historically black college, when it was incorporated by the Virginia General Assembly. In this period, he also wrote his autobiography, which he published in 1894.
From 1891- 1897, Langston practiced law in Washington, D.C., until his death on November 15, 1897, he is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Washington, DC. In his honor the Langston University and the town where it is located in Oklahoma carry his name.
Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838 and became a leading abolitionist, as well as an orator, writer, editor, and public servant.
At the time of the delivery of this speech, Douglass had been living in Rochester, New York for several years editing a weekly abolitionist newspaper. He was invited to give a fourth of July speech by the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester. In the early 1850s, tensions over slavery were high across the county. The Compromise of 1850 had failed to resolve the controversy over the admission of new slaveholding states to the Union. The Fugitive Slave Act passed by Congress as part of this compromise was bitterly resented by the Northern states. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel about slavery, Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Or Life among the Lowly had been published a few months before and unexpectedly became a national bestseller. Across the country, people were thinking and arguing about slavery, abolitionism, and the future of the nation.
Frederick Douglas’s delivered on July 5, 1852 at Corinthian Hall to the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, New York, read by actor Ossie Davis.
“What to the Slave is the Fourth July?” by Frederick Douglass is not only a brilliant work of oratory. It speaks to our every frustration spurred by the gap between the ideals of the United States and the reality we witness every day; between the Bill of Rights and our decaying civil liberties; between the USA’s international declarations of human rights and the ordered drone attacks backed by presidential “kill lists”; between the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and a nation that leads the world in jailing its own citizens; between our highest ideals and our darkest realities. Here’s hoping people take the time to read the entirety of Douglass’s brilliant speech; even though his were words that spoke directly to his moment in history, they still ring with an unsettling power. As Douglass says: “Had I the ability, and could I reach the nation’s ear, I would today pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” —Dave Zirin
- Gabriel’s Rebellion, 1800
Gabriel was a literate enslaved blacksmith hired out to work in Richmond by his owner, Thomas Prosser of Henrico County. With some freedom of movement, access to other slaves, and information about uprisings elsewhere, Gabriel planned a slave rebellion in central Virginia. Betrayed by two fellow slaves, Gabriel and twenty-five of his followers were hanged.
- The Nat Turner Revolt, 1831
The danger of a slave uprising seemed remote to most whites until this incident. In Southampton County, Nat Turner led about sixty fellow slaves in a two-day uprising that left sixty whites dead. The reaction to the event by white southerners can be seen in broadsides, narratives, and private letters. Because Turner’s former master was said to be a fair man, every slaveholder in Virginia suddenly felt threatened.