Rebellion 1840s & 1850s     
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The Confessions of Nat Turner, title page, 1832
Detail from the title page of The Confessions of Nat Turner, published by Thomas R. Gray (Richmond, Virginia) in 1832. Ignoring the Black Seminole-led insurrection in Florida, American historians have almost uniformly held that Turner led the last major slave rebellion in U.S. history. Library of Congress.
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Conventional scholarly wisdom on American slave revolts

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Note: For much more detail on this topic, with analysis of key scholarly citations, see Examples and analysis of oversight and misinterpretation of the Black Seminole slave rebellion, from major scholarly works on U.S. slavery.  

For examples of the conventional wisdom on the absence of slave revolts in the U.S. after 1832, and the absence of effective slave revolts throughout U.S. history, see Freehling 77, 95, Elkins 136ff, 220-22, Stamp 134, 136, 139-49. See Genovese 18, 76 for references to the Black Seminoles as maroon warriors, without connection to slave insurrection. Elkins 220-22 is especially notable for his claim that after 1831, southern fears of slave insurrection were irrational. Those fears in fact appear much more rational in light of a truer understanding of the Second Seminole War.

Genovese and others have argued that the Black Seminoles who fought in the Second Seminole War were maroons, not slaves in revolt; there is a case to be made here, but overlooks the fact that the Black Seminoles were threatened with classification as chattel slaves from 1835-1848 and, in 1848, ingloriously accorded that legal status, a point which at least opens speculation that their fight for liberty be classified as a slave rebellion. Regardless of one’s conclusions on these semantic issues, however, the Black Seminoles undoubtedly inspired the largest rebellion of plantation slaves in U.S. history, as documented in the essay accompanying this site. The facts of this rebellion remained unknown to Stamp, Elkins, Freehling and countless other scholars when they advanced explanations for the lack of revolts after 1831 and, in Elkin’s case, the “irrational nature” of southern fears of rebellion in the post-Nat Turner era.

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Sources: Freehling 77, 95, Elkins 136ff, 220-22, Stamp 134, 136, 139-49, Genovese 18, 76. ©
Part 4, Freedom: Outline  l Images
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 Trail Narrative
 + Prologue
 + Background: 1693-1812
 + Early Years: 1812-1832
 + War: 1832-1838
 + Exile: 1838-1850
 - Freedom: 1850-1882
+ Cost of Freedom
+ Liberty Foretold
spacer spacer Renown in Exile
The War Power
Lincoln's Choice
Black Militants
+ Liberty Found
 + Legacy & Conclusion


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