African American Slave Resistance

1778 Words 8 Pages
Why were African-Americans not more successful in resisting the institution of slavery?
It has been highlighted by many scholars that the slave rebellions in the United States were very minute when compared with the slave revolts that occurred in places like Jamaica, Brazil and Russia. This brings up the question of why and how this was the case. What made the slaves in the United States less likely to resist their unfavourable conditions? It can be identified that for southern slaves in America everything was stacked against them. The law laid power in the hands of the whites. In many cases slaves were often outnumbered by white Americans residing in the same area meaning that any form of rebellion would have been at a numerical disadvantage.
…show more content…
Although not as striking as a violent group rebellion, running away still posed as a great risk to take. If one was successful in becoming a free man through flight it can be deemed an impressive accomplishment. If runaways were caught it could result in not being able to go to any surrounding plantations if you had family there or a wife you could be sold, being imprisoned, getting handcuffed to heavy logs or to another slave. As a minimum you would be strung up and flogged violently. Flight of one slave can emphasize the collective nature of the slave community in the ways they supported runaways. Even when a slave ran away on their own, the rest of the slaves might themselves be punished as it could be suspected that they knew of the plan or provided the runaway with things he would need for his journey. Oakes emphasises that runaways had a political significance; which became more important as time went on. When the civil war broke out and the conflict between the north and south grew, acts of slave resistance would have created more trouble. He argues that if running away was politically significant before the Civil War happened, then slaves that escaped during it took on “revolutionary …show more content…
Genovese amidst others have pointed out the equilibrium of power was constantly against the slaves. They had a numerical weakness against the whites and they were dispersed in small numbers compared to resident white in southern areas. Genovese furthers his statement by stressing the strength of southern whites themselves as the overriding cause in hindering successful slave rebellions. Kolchin himself considers the “relative lack of self-autonomy and the weakness of the slaves collective mentality” as possible causes of why slaves were not more successful in resisting the institutions of slavery. It can be said the most successful types of slave resistance were the small acts that were individually carried out by slaves to minimise burdens to themselves. These are the acts that were often never realised by the master and are only know to historians through personal accounts or diaries produced by slaves where they have confessed things that went on. Although it is fair to agree with the essay title that active resistance in the form of revolts was minimal and usually unsuccessful; when taking the term ‘resistance’ as a broader concept there are many things slaves did that were successful – it’s just that these successes were only known to the individual. It can be said that the historical view of slave resistance has

Related Documents