Slave Insurrections in the History of the United States

There were over 250 slave insurrections (or slave rebellions or revolts) in the area that would become the United States. Some of the most famous slave insurrections were the Stone Rebellion in 1739 in South Carolina, the Gabriel Prosser conspiracy in 1800 in Virginia, the Denmark Vesey revolt in 1822 in South Carolina, and the Nat Turner revolt in 1831 in Virginia. In each of these insurrections, those involved planned to arm themselves, take over the city, and kill any white people who got in their way.

None of the insurrections were successful, but they did result in a lot of dead people (white and black), and a lot of property destruction. The leaders of the insurrections were invariably caught, tried, and executed. Sometimes responding militia and white authorities killed blacks indiscriminately, whether they had been involved in the insurrection or not.

The authorities frequently responded to such rebellions by creating harsh new rules to restrict the movements and liberties of slaves. After the Vesey insurrection, for instance, South Carolina forbid large gatherings of blacks unless there was a white man present to supervise, blacks were forbidden from owning boats, free black sailors who entered the state were arrested and held until their ships left, and all free blacks age 15 or over had to have a white sponsor or they would be sold into slavery.

But slave insurrections also were stark reminders to the whole country that slavery was an issue that needed to be addressed. Slave insurrections showed abolitionists that slaves were willing to rebel and fight.

Get quality help now
Writer Lyla
5 (876)

“ Have been using her for a while and please believe when I tell you, she never fail. Thanks Writer Lyla you are indeed awesome ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

They also belied the idea that slaves were content in their situation, as some pro-slavery parties argued. Two slave insurrections, the Nat Turner rebellion in 1831 and the Harpers Ferry Raid in 1859, have been credited with catalyzing the start of the Civil War.

On the one hand, as the “Slave Revolts” article in our reading states, “The main result of slave insurrections, throughout the Americas, was the mass execution of blacks.” On the other hand, slave insurrections kept the issue of slavery in the public eye and were a factor in the start of the Civil War, which ultimately ended slavery.

My question is: overall, did slave insurrections do more harm or good for the average slave at the time?


  1. Appleford, Simon J. “Vesey Conspiracy.” Gale Library of Daily Life: Slavery in America, edited by Orville Vernon Burton, vol. 2, Gale, 2008, pp. 147-149. U.S. History in Context,
  2. Drewry, Henry N. “Slave Insurrections.” Dictionary of American History, edited by Stanley I. Kutler, 3rd ed., vol. 7, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2003, pp. 378-380. U.S. History in Context, urever87615&xid=1021bf7c.
  3. “Slave Rebellions.” Violence in America, edited by Ronald Gottesman and Richard Maxwell Brown, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1999. U.S. History in Context, u=ever87615&xid=ca0b7f45.

Cite this page

Slave Insurrections in the History of the United States. (2022, Jun 15). Retrieved from

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7