Resistance to Slavery

Runaways | Women and Slavery | Everyday Forms of Resistance
Cultural Resistance

Resistance to enslavement increases as restrictions increase
More individual acts of defiance, conspiracies, attempted revolts


indentured servants

changes in servitude

slavery in the north

conditions for southern slaves

resistance to slavery

abolition in america

The Emancipation Proclamation


From the South Carolina Gazette, Oct 28, 1732
RUN away from his Master's Plantation, in the Parish of St. James's Goose Creek, a lusty Negro Man named Hercules, he formerly used to wait on his Master in Charlestown, and is now by Trade a Cooper [barrel maker]. He had on when he went away a blue Duffils Jacket, a pair of ozenbrig Breeches, and speaks very good English. Whoever apprehends and brings him either to the said Plantation in Goose-Creek, or to his Master Robert Hume on Charlestown Neck, shall receive 5 [lb] reward, besides the usual Allowance for Mileage.
Robert Hume.

From the South Carolina Gazette, August 13, 1737
RUN AWAY from the Plantation of Isaac Porcher on Wassamsaw, a new Angola Negro Man, named Clawss, he is a small Fellow, and very black, he had on when he went away a Breeches, Jacket and Cap of white Plains, pretty much worn and dirty, any Person who shall apprehend the said Negro Man, and bring him to his Master, or to Goal in Charlestown, or give Information so as he may be had again, shall receive 2 [lb] reward and all Charges paid by Isaac Porcher.
....N.B. As there is abundance of Negroes in the Province of that Nation, he may chance to be harbour'd among some of them, therefore all Masters are desire to give notice ot their Slaves who shall receive the same reward, if they take up the said Run-away.

Women and Slavery

Sometime in 1850 Robert Newsom, a slaveholder, purchased Celia, who was at the time approximately fourteen years of age. Shortly after purchase, he raped Celia and from the beginning regarded her as both his property and his concubine. For five years, he made repeated sexual assaults on her. She gave birth to two children, one, probably both, fathered by him. When a slave called George became her lover, she tried to stop Newsom's sexual advances by first asking the daughters of the slaveholder for help, to no avail. She then asked Newsom himself to stop and warned that she'd hurt him if he continued. Celia directly confronted him sometime on or immediately before June 23, 1855. Newsom brushed aside her request and, as if to emphasize his right to sex with her, informed Celia that 'he was coming to her cabin that night.'

Celia threatened to hurt him if he made further sexual demands of her. After her confrontation with him she obtained a large stick, which she placed in the corner of her cabin. At approximately ten o'clock later that night,...Newsom ...walked the sixty or so paces to Celia's cabin. He entered the cabin. There was a confrontation. As Newsom approached her, Celia retreated before him into a corner of the house. With one hand she raised the stick and brought it down against his head... Afraid that an angered Newsom would harm her, she raised the club with both hands and once again brought it crashing down on Newsom's skull, thus killing him. To dispose of the body she burned it in the fireplace in her cabin.

Everyday Forms of Resistance

Overt acts of resistance resulted in increased restrictions and harsher white control.

Most slaves used less dramatic means to limit oppression and maintain what they perceived to be acceptable levels of work and subsistence.

These everyday forms of resistance included: pretending to be sick, pretending not to understand instructions, breaking tools, stealing foodstuffs, and occasionally arson.

Positive results: set limits to oppression and allowed survival.

Negative: reinforced stereotypes of African-Americans as lazy and stupid in white minds.

Cultural Resistance

Slaves also used “Cultural Resistance” to slavery.

Maintain families if not separated by sale.

Naming patterns allow families to trace their lineage.

Slaves created an “Invisible Church” where they practiced a syncretic form of Christianity.

Slaves used folktales to teach their children how to survive the slave system.

Slave songs pass along a black history of slavery.

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