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The theft of foodstuffs was especially common and was justified on several grounds.
Slaves commandeered weapons, burned and looted properties, and even killed their masters and other whites, but whites were quick to exact a brutal revenge.
In the bloodiest American revolt, Nat Turner and several hundred comrades killed sixty whites.
For the most part, these men did not speak English and were unfamiliar with the geographic terrain of North America.
Their attempts to escape slavery, despite these handicaps, are a testament to the rejection of their servile condition.
In this way, the enslaved often negotiated the basic terms of their daily routines.
Of course, masters also stood to benefit from these negotiations, as contented slaves worked harder, increasing output and efficiency. Slaves pilfered fruits, vegetables, livestock, tobacco, liquor, and money from their masters.The most prominent of these occurred in New York City (1712), Stono, South Carolina (1739), New Orleans (1811), and Southampton, Virginia (Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion).Numerous other conspiracies were thwarted before they could be fully realized, including Gabriel Prosser’s (Richmond, VA, 1800) and Denmark Vesey’s (Charleston, SC, 1822).During the early years of slavery, runaways tended to consist mostly of African-born males.Since African-born men were in the numerical majority through much of the eighteenth century, this should not surprise us.If slave masters increased workloads, provided meager rations, or punished too severely, slaves registered their displeasure by slowing work, feigning illness, breaking tools, or sabotaging production.These everyday forms of resistance vexed slave masters, but there was little they could do to stop them without risking more widespread breaks in production.Over the years, customary rights emerged in most fields of production.These customs dictated work routines, distribution of rations, general rules of comportment, and so on.The most common form of overt resistance was flight.As early as 1640, slaves in Maryland and Virginia absconded from their enslavement, a trend that would grow into the thousands, and, eventually, tens of thousands by the time of the Civil War.