Chronicle of Slave rebellions in the Americas.

All societies practicing slavery will have to deal with slave revolts because there is that desire for Freedom in any human being. One can express it in their songs or their story-telling nights. It becomes part of their culture and an art in knowing how to implant it on others with the same background.

History is full of examples of such revolts. When a Roman slave named Spartacus (73-71 BC) rose against abuses committed by the Roman Empire or a Scandinavian Slave Tunni, in the 9th century, revolted against the Swedish Monarchy, you can also understand well how the slaves of Santo Domingo, Bookman, Dessalines and others may have felt in the 18th century (1791) against the French Imperialism of Napoleon Bonaparte. The French revolution indeed bought to us the words of Liberty and Equality for all.

Muhammed led the east African slaves in the Zani Rebellion in Iraq to revolt against the Abbasid Caliphate. Nanny of the Maroons revolted against the British in Jamaica. In continental United States, Denmark Vesey rebelled in South Carolina.

Ancient Sparta had serfs called helots who rebelled against the Spartans as reported by Herodotus. English peasants revolted in 1381 to obtain reform in the feudalism system in England and increase the right of the serfs and Richard II agreed to their requests. In Russia, the slaves were called Kholops and slavery remained an institution until 1723 when Peter the Great converted the slaves into serfs. They became outlaws called “Cossacks” living in the southern steppes. Numerous rebellions and Cossacks uprisings with Ivan Bolotnikov (1606), Stenka Razin (1667), Kondraty Butavin (1707) are some of the many hundred outbreaks across Russia.

Numerous African slave revolts took place in America during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. More than 250 uprising have been documented. Slaves like Gabriel Prosser (Richmond, VA 1800), Denmark Vesey (Charleston SC 1822) Nat Turner (South Hampton County VA 1831) merit their named to be mentioned and this is the story of the most striking revolts that I want to bring to light.

I have taken solemnly that task to bring to light the most distinctive slave revolutions in the Americas and chose to review some of the most epic African slave revolts which have marked forever the new world in this “Chronicle of African Slave revolts in the Americas”. I am sure you will find time to appreciate what our ancestors have done to make Haiti a free Nation for the Haitians.

This month, we will talk about the 1791 Mina Conspiration in Louisiana.

1791 Mina Conspiration (Louisiana)

Mina was a well-organized African-American community with a common language in Louisiana. This community arose from the importation of slaves around 1782. Most slaves were able to speak French Creole but others were from the Caribbean.

In July 1791, it was reported at Pointe Coupee that the Mina slaves on the estate of widow Provillar at New Roads, were conspiring to revolt. They were planning to steal weapons from a storehouse (Jean Baptiste Tournoir’s) and kill their masters to claim freedom. They heard about all the revolts in the Caribbean’s and the plantations of North America. In the Pointe Clouee Parish, they witnessed conspiracies for slave rebellion against the owners and the military fort.

Many slaves from different tribes were in Mina. Cesar, an Ashanti from Jamaica, Pedro Chamba raised in Mina, and Jaco who was called the king, held an event. During the dance activities, Jaco discussed with Cesar the way he would like to revolt and kill the masters. They started planning to arm themselves and attack the colons. Many others like Dique and Venus, both from Ado tribes, met with them and discussed the fine details. The bad weather conditions forced the group to postpone the uprising. Words leaked to a white master George Oliveau who rapidly reported the activities to the commandant of the Pointe Coupee post. The militia was ordered to patrol the roads.

17 slaves were arrested and thrown in jail but because many of them did not speak French Creole, benefit of the doubt was given to them. The prisoners were held captive for two years and subsequently released to their respective owners. There was no resolution in the trial but better treatment of the slaves was implemented and adequate food and clothing were imposed to deter any future slave revolts.

Maxime Coles MD

References:

1-    Speedy, Karin (1995): Mississippi and Teche Creole: Two separate starting points for creole in Louisiana” Baker, P (ed.) University of Westminster Press p 106.

Midio Hall, Gwendolyn (1992), Africans in Colonial Louisiana. Louisiana State University

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