Week 11 – 3/27 Slave Resistance


17 thoughts on “Week 11 – 3/27 Slave Resistance

  1. Christine Shaw March 26, 2013 at 10:33 pm Reply

    In some of the slave rebellions discussed in Chapter 11, the backlash seems disproportionate to the violence of the rebels. One example discussed is Bussa’s Rebellion. The slaves only killed one white civilian, but the whites killed or executed several hundred slaves in the fighting and after trials. Similarly in the rebellion in Demerara, slaves killed fewer than five white men. However, after the rebellion ended, over two hundred slaves were killed. The Baptist War in Jamaica resulted in the deaths of 540 slaves but only fourteen whites (220). The severity of the whites’ response can be understood as their attempt to prevent revolts by killing slaves with any connection to the rebellions (and to the resulting destruction of property), since they might have been more likely to instigate dissent in the future. Other slaves who heard of how harshly the whites put down the revolts would also be discouraged from attempting to rebel. The whites’ reaction reflected their economic dependence on perpetuating slave labor and their view of slaves as disposable.

    • taymn March 27, 2013 at 9:42 am Reply

      I agree. I think “disposable” was definitely a good word to describe the whites’ feelings toward the slaves. If they were not so blinded by greed, they could have “… discovered ‘humanity’ in the slaves and savagery in people of their own kind” (215)

    • Caroline March 27, 2013 at 11:33 am Reply

      I agree. I also think the disproportionate response from whites shows their fear and shock.

    • ewm1 March 27, 2013 at 12:45 pm Reply

      I don’t think whites really viewed their slaves as “disposable,” they were major investments, ones they were desperate not to lose. This is why abolition seemed like such an appalling idea to many southerners. It was more necessary, I think, to kill the spoiled slaves than something the whites wanted to do.

  2. Caroline March 26, 2013 at 11:18 pm Reply

    At the end of this week’s chapter, Davis makes three conclusions about slave revolts in the United States and the Caribbean. I found his first conclusion very interesting. He says in revolts like Nat Turner’s Rebellion, which were infrequent and in which slaves slaughtered many whites, the rebels “had no possibility of appealing to a strong, centralized government,” (220) that would actually try to abolish slavery. Therefore, rebellions like Nat Turner’s were futile and “almost always suicidal,” (206). In contrast, in British colonies in the Caribbean, slaves “showed considerable wisdom and self-discipline,” (220) by directing their violence at property rather than people. They knew that “any widespread killing of whites would undermine their cause in antislavery Britain,” (217). This can be seen in the reading about Bahia where rumors about slave freedom led to regular revolts, but the revolts usually ended in more slave deaths than white deaths. For example, on the twenty-third of March, 1814, slaves burned the sugar field where they worked, but did not kill anyone. These readings made me wonder why such a difference was created and why, even when the abolition movement started in the United States, similar, regular revolts did not occur.

    • Gahbrielle Armrdi March 27, 2013 at 11:59 am Reply

      Not only did the slaughter of whites not appeal to the centralized government, the number of slaves killed also had little impact on the decisions of the British government. Davis mentions that ” Missionary Smith,” the Demerara Martyr, had a far greater impact on British opinion and history than did the 540 Jamaican slaves who lost their lives eight years later.”

  3. ewm1 March 26, 2013 at 11:45 pm Reply

    This week’s readings discussed several slave rebellions and their ultimate results. The most interesting point I think Davis made was the fact that so few slaves were actually motivated enough to rebel. Davis attributes this demotivation to the idea that masters would beat any disobedience out of their slaves before they had the chance to rise up against him. The slaves, however, had nothing to gain from rebellion. Each and every American slave rebellion mentioned resulted in numerous executions of slaves, even though those slaves rarely killed any whites. One freed slave’s account suggests that some slaves preferred slavery over a forced freedom, Mrs. Moore says she “wuz bettah treated ez a slave den I is now.” Regardless of some of their desires for freedom, we see that true freedom would never come without some kind of outside aid.

    • Caroline March 27, 2013 at 11:35 am Reply

      The same was true in the Caribbean as well though. None of the slave revolts ended successfully and as Christine said, many more slaves than whites were killed in multiple revolts. Why did this stop the slaves in the United States and not the slaves in the Caribbean?

  4. dpl32013 March 26, 2013 at 11:58 pm Reply

    One thing I found interesting in the reading was the difference between slave revolts in North American and those in South America and the Caribbean. North American cases of slave resistance were few and far between, and well known cases such as Nat Turner’s rebellion and Denmark Vensey’s conspiracy can hardly be interpreted as representative of any general trend. In contrast, as clearly evinced in the supplemental reading by the example of Bahia, revolts in some parts of the Caribbean were so common that some societies seemed incurably plagued by them. Somewhat surprisingly, as Davis notes, this is not due to the relative contentment of the slaves. He writes, “…the lack of huge uprisings in North America by no means proves or indicates that slaves were happy, content, carefree, or infantilized Sambos…”.

    • Christine Shaw March 27, 2013 at 12:40 am Reply

      Another aspect that Davis mentions regarding the difference in frequency of rebellions between North America and the Caribbean is that, in contrast to British slaves, slaves in North America couldn’t “appeal to a strong, centralized government” and recognized that their likelihood of success was low since they had little potential of getting outside help (220).

      • Gahbrielle Armrdi March 27, 2013 at 11:52 am

        I agree with your comment, slaves were more likely to gain rights by warning masters of an imminent rebellion than actually joining in on the rebellion.

  5. taymn March 27, 2013 at 12:48 am Reply

    One thing that I learned by reading this chapter is that I had a misconception about united motivations for slave resistance. Davis mentions the slaves had “… different conceptions of the future and of their place in time…” (Davis 216). Some slaves would be content with just having “free days” of the week. Others wanted complete freedom. Some of the slaves wanted the white men enslaved and the white women shipped away (217). Others wanted them all killed. Slaves like Charlie Davenport even preferred slavery to freedom. It is as if the slaves were not on the same page. They were fighting for different outcomes. That might be one of the reasons why most of the revolts did not succeed. Of course, there were other reasons why the revolts were unsuccessful. Davis explains that, “… the British learned the indispensability of arming black West India regiments in the hotly contested Caribbean. They had also found that the free colored population would be mostly prowhite and proslavery…” (212). The British learned how to defeat the slaves from their experiences with them in other wars such as the ones between Britain and France.

    • Christine Shaw March 27, 2013 at 1:08 am Reply

      I agree with your point that disunity among slaves probably contributed to the failure of many slaves revolts. In some cases, conflicts in interests among different sections of the black population also played a role. One exception mentioned in the supplemental reading was the 1807 revolt, in which slaves from different ethnic groups worked together (Reis 44).

    • dpl32013 March 27, 2013 at 9:27 am Reply

      It also seemed common, especially in the supplemental reading, for slaves to consider blacks who failed to support their uprisings as enemies. In Bahia slaves who did not join in rebellions were usually killed.

  6. Gahbrielle Armrdi March 27, 2013 at 8:40 am Reply

    I found it interesting that slaves who did the hardest and most gruesome work were not the majority of the slave rebels. According to Davis “a disproportionately large number were members of the slave elite”. It seems that the slaves in the lowest positions had a better chance of freedom if they warned masters of a slave revolt instead of joining in on the rebellion. Such slaves were not necessarily content with their current state, but found ways to manage life as a slave. Former slave Davenport’s report on slavery shows how even physical liberty is not complete freedom. In this interview, Davenport claims that he was treated better as a slave then as a free African-American. This shows how slavery can permanently shape one’s mind to be obsequious even when the person is no longer a slave. Acros thought masters were too rough with their slaves and believed that “slavery was a necessary evil, but one that could be attenuated and made bearable for its victims.” In my opinion, the very act of enslaving a human binds the mind. Privileged slaves had a slightly freer mind. This mind led them to find value in rebellion even if their own lives were at risk.

    • taymn March 27, 2013 at 9:48 am Reply

      It is unfortunate that Davenport was probably not the only slave who felt secure in bondage. We can only hope that this mindset prevented the slaves who were not a part of the rebellions from turning against those who were, simply because they did not want to be rewarded with freedom.

    • ewm1 March 27, 2013 at 12:32 pm Reply

      I think slaves that held higher positions were, in general, more educated than field laborers. Because of this, they would have been more able to conspire to form the rebellions you’re talking about.

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