What were three ways that enslaved Africans tried to resist slavery?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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One way that enslaved people resisted their enslavement was through open revolt. Armed uprisings were not uncommon in the Atlantic World, occurring often enough that most slaves would have heard of their occurrence during their lifetimes. Some examples of armed uprisings, or at least conspiracies to revolt, were the Stono Rebellion of 1739 south of Charles Town, South Carolina, Tacky's Rebellion, which occurred in 1760 on the British island of Jamaica, and Nat Turner's 1831 rebellion in Southampton, Virginia. While bloody, all of these rebellions were ultimately unsuccessful, and their leaders were ruthlessly hunted down and killed.

Another way of resisting was simply running away. For most people, this was only a viable option if there was a nearby community of free black people, often called maroons, or if one had a means of making their way to an area where slavery was outlawed (like the famous Underground Railroad that took root in the mid-nineteenth century.) As societies became more complex, escape became more difficult, as the powers of the state could be brought to bear in capturing slaves. Slave patrols and white populations that were generally hostile to African-Americans made escape unlikely. Moreover, running away was not necessarily an appealing option for those who would be leaving families behind.

Revolt and escape had little chance of success, and the vast majority of enslaved people did not participate in them. But this does not mean that they did not resist slavery. Rather, most resisted slavery through their everyday actions. Everyday resistance, the third and by far the most common, might consist of simply working slowly, feigning illness, breaking tools, stealing livestock, or some other act. Many historians recognize slave religious gatherings, songs, and practices as a form of cultural resistance. Under slavery, even keeping one's family together and attempting to maintain some sense of normalcy and humanity in the face of an oppressive institution were forms of resistance that all slaves in some way engaged in.

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