The fear of a large-scale slave revolt haunted the antebellum South. One such revolt had occurred in Haiti at the end of the eighteenth century. Led by Toussaint Louverture, a former slave, the rebellious slaves won both their freedom and and their independence from France.
Gabriel Prosser, a deeply religious slave, led a revolt in 1800. The well-planned uprising might have succeeded had it not been for a rainstorm which impeded the slaves' movement. Prosser and several dozen of his adherents were put to death.
Denmark Vesey recruited hundreds of followers for a revolt in Charleston, South Carolina in 1822. One of the blacks betrayed Vesey and the uprising was suppressed before it had even begun. Vesey and 34 of his men were executed.
After the Vesey episode, a fearful South intensified its efforts to control its slaves. One way it did this was to prohibit the teaching of reading and writing. Toussaint had become literate and educated before his uprising. Frederick Douglas had gained an education in the South before escaping to the North and becoming leading critic of slavery.
The most serious slave uprising in the antebellum South was led by Nat Turner. In 1831, he commanded a revolt in southeast Virginia. Dozens of whites were killed. Turner escaped capture for weeks, but he was eventually found and executed.
Although the Turner Rebellion was bloodily suppressed, the controversy over slavery intensified during the next three decades. The Underground Railroad helped slaves escape to freedom. The Liberator was published after 1830. In 1833, the American Antislavery Society was founded. And finally, the Turner Rebellion helped inspire John Brown's abortive revolt before the Civil War.
Slaves in the South did usually not have opportunities to resist slavery. Whippings were frequent. Also, the South had a system of patrols which controlled the countryside. The antebellum South was paranoid, so its control of slaves was nearly total.