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The Stono Rebellion

Imagine the year is 1739. and you live in South Carolina. Out of the 56,000 people living in South Carolina, blacks out number whites two to one. You are a slave on a plantation near the Stono River. Your master is very mean and strict as most masters were at that time. You ate when you were told to eat, you worked when you were told to work, and you were beaten whenever your master felt that you had disobeyed. Your life consisted of working, trying to take care of your family, and being beaten if you ever did anything wrong. Your life was miserable and you couldn't take it any more. Some thing drastic had to be done. You and the other slaves had spoken of rebellion and had agreed that the time had come for your escape to freedom.

The word was that some small groups of runaways had escaped from South Carolina to St. Augustine, FL. where they received freedom and land from Spain. Spain and England were about to go to war over the American colonies. The Spanish were giving the land to the slaves to throw the British off guard by disrupting their colonies. The slaves could not freely go of course, and would only be free once they reached St Augustine. Therefore, the local government passed its own preventative law called the Security Act. This act required that all white males carry arms to church on Sundays typically, one of the only times whites were unarmed. Sundays were also different in that slaves had that time to grow their own food and were allowed to work for money. This meant that they were not constrained to the plantation, and so were able to move around more freely than any other day. With freedom and land waiting in St. Augustine, however, a rebellion may have been inevitable.

Stono River, where the stono Rebellion started
In fact, early in the morning of September 9th 1739, the biggest rebellion in Colonial American history was about to take place. A slave named Jemmy and about 20 other slaves met on the Banks of the Stono River. They broke into a store stealing ammunition, guns, and anything else that could be used for weapons. They first marched to the Godfrey plantation, killing the owner, his kids, and burning down his house. They continued south stopping at several different plantations burning each and recruiting the slaves who wanted freedom. By eleven o'clock that morning the rebels were already 50 people strong, and the few whites they had encountered had been chased down and killed. All but one. Lieutenant Governor Bull somehow managed to escape the rebels and was able to warn the town, that the rebels were on their way.

By that afternoon, just before reaching the Edisto River, they had marched over ten miles and had killed between twenty to twenty five whites. At the river, the rebels were met by a group of whites armed with rifles. The rebels fired two shots and a brutal firefight began. By dusk, about thirty slaves were dead and many more had fled, most of whom were captured and executed over the following six months. Except for one who managed to remain a fugitive for three years until he was later captured and hanged. Imagine, if Lieutenant Governor Bull hadn't escaped, the rebels might have made it to St. Augustine and changed history forever. The Stono Rebellion was what all the colonists had feared. The worst had happened; the long feared rebellion resulted in the deaths of at least twenty-five whites, and over sixty slaves.

As I walked on the banks of the Stono River I thought of the blood shed that had taken place here. What a confusing time that must have been. I couldn't even imagine being a slave forced to work, always looking over my shoulder thinking I was going to be beaten by my master or overseer. It still boggles my mind how much hatred the Colonists had to have to enslave another human being. Not just enslave them, but beat them, take away all their rights, and violate them as human beings. The slaves of the Stono rebellion felt that they had no way out. Their only way to freedom in Florida was through the use of violence, which saddens me. This rebellion, which was the biggest rebellion in Colonial America was extremely violent. The rebellion had consequences not only limited to the deaths of all those involved, but it also led to the Negro Act which was passed immediately after the revolt. The Negro Act stated that no slaves were allowed to grow their own food, assemble in groups, earn their own money or learn how to read. A few of these restrictions were in effect before the Negro Act but had not been strictly enforced.

On the dock
It's the year 2000 but a lot of racism and hatred still exist. I recently had an incident in a public library in Charleston. I had woken up taken a shower, put on some nice cologne, and had gone to the library with my friend Steph. As I was looking through a Rolodex, a white male about 50 years old looked at me and told me I smelled rancid. I assured him that I was wearing all clean clothes and even a new sweatshirt. He replied "It must be your hair" That really crossed the line as I felt he was making a racial comment because I have long hair and am Indian. I was flaring with anger, but told him "just for your information, I've been taught to take very good care of my hair as it is part of my culture." He had no response and so I continued doing my research ignoring him.

When I was done, just before I left, I went up to him and said "PEACE BE WITH YOU". The reason was because he was the one with the problem, not me. He was the one that was full of hatred and prejudice, not me. I even almost felt sorry for this man because he is so much older but apparently so much more immature. I prayed that one day he will realize that we are all equals, every race, and every religion; we are all human, and we all have red blood under our skin. The main thing, is that if you ever find yourself in a situation like this, don't let it get the best of you because if you lose control and get angry or mad then the other person has already won. This will be hard to do, but try to take the peaceful way out- there's already too much violence and hatred in our world. We don't need any more. It was not easy for me to look the other way and say peace to this man, but after had it felt better than if I had knocked him out. It really did. Just remember we don't have enough peace in this world. So it feels great to contribute. Peace out Nick


Please email me at: nick@ustrek.org


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