Enslaved Africans Rebelling Was Common Before The Civil War

illustration of the discovery of nat turner in a forest
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
June 9, 2022

White supremacy frequently teaches us that the Civil War consisted of “white Northerners freeing enslaved Africans.” But there’s NO such thing as a white savior! 

While the Civil War brought eventual emancipation, the enslaved were already fighting for liberation – but MANY of their revolts were covered up.

Historians have documented at least 250 slave uprisings. Enslavers tried frantically to keep revolts from happening, and attempted to bury them in history, terrified they would inspire other rebellions.

The largest rebellion happened in Louisiana in 1811. Led by Charles Deslondes, roughly 500 enslaved Africans attacked Louisiana’s parishes, killing enslavers and overthrowing plantations. 

While they were stopped and many were lynched in the end, they were still victorious – because they made it clear nothing but death could stop them from fighting for freedom.

Over time enslaved Africans developed multiple rebellious tactics – they broke tools, faked illness, ran away, and held secret meetings. They knew freedom required strategy, risk, and often, violence. 

Some uprisings were planned, but many were in the heat of the moment – when injustices faced were so terrible all they could do was collectively scream and attack their enslavers.

As we gather for Juneteenth, remember those we’ve lost fighting for liberation. There’s a time and place for peaceful words, but fighting for freedom is rarely peaceful.

Like enslaved Africans on the frontlines, we must fight with everything in us!

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