Rebellion 1863 - present     
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Major texts on slavery and slave resistance, 20th century
Some of the major works on American slavery, clockwise from top left, with dates of original publication: Black Rebellion (1889) by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1889); Slavery (1959), by Stanley M. Elkins; From Rebellion to Revolution (1979) by Eugene Genovese; The Peculiar Institution (1956) by Kenneth M. Stampp; and, center, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943) by Herbert Aptheker.
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Black Militants slide ticker

Somewhat amazingly, even twentieth-century historians failed to grasp the significance of the Black Seminoles as black militants. To this day most scholars of African American history misunderstand their rebellion, if they are aware of it at all.

Throughout the twentieth century, historians debunked myths about American slavery as they sought a more accurate vision of the South's peculiar institution. Beginning in the 1920s, scholars analyzed myriad forms of black resistance to slavery—sabotage, laziness, escape, even murder and suicide were held up as examples. And yet curiously historians have not been able to find any examples of successful armed revolts against American slavery. According to conventional scholarly wisdom, in fact, all of the rebellions involving armed slaves, from the New York City revolt in 1712 to John Brown’s raid in 1859, were military failures. Conventional wisdom further contends that slaves instigated no major insurrections in the U.S. after 1831, when Nat Turner led his rebellion in Virginia. The absence of armed revolts after 1831 has even been a scholarly riddle, along with the general absence of successful armed revolts taking place at any time on U.S. soil.*

And yet a successful, armed slave rebellion tool place after 1831—and it happened to have been the largest in U.S. history. This was, of course, the rebellion led by the Black Seminoles in Florida from late 1835 through 1838.

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Sources: Freehling 77, 95, Elkins 136ff, 220-22, Stamp 134, 136, 139-49, Genovese 18, 76. ©
*For more on the scholarship, see the accompanying sidetrack, "
Conventional scholarly wisdom on American slave revolts."
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


Conventional scholarly wisdom on American slave revolts