Tensions were running high in the area of Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 1739. First, enslaved Black people in the area outnumbered white residents by quite a bit, and this made plantation owners and smaller farmers nervous about the possibility of a slave uprising. Further, diseases had been...
Tensions were running high in the area of Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 1739. First, enslaved Black people in the area outnumbered white residents by quite a bit, and this made plantation owners and smaller farmers nervous about the possibility of a slave uprising. Further, diseases had been ravaging the area, weakening and killing many people. Yet crops still needed to come in, and this was a good year. White plantation owners and farmers wanted their slaves to work as efficiently as possible.
White people in the area were also concerned about the fact that the Spanish had offered sanctuary and freedom for runaway slaves in Florida, and some enslaved people were taking them up on the offer. There were not enough overseers to keep an eye on the slaves, who had also developed a strong community of their own. Tensions continued to build but didn't break until the South Carolina colonial assembly decided to permit white men to carry guns to church on Sundays in case of a slave uprising.
The uprising happened shortly afterward, on September 9, 1739. No one knows exactly what triggered it, but by the time it was over, twenty to twenty-five white people had been killed by rebelling slaves, and fourteen slaves had been killed by white people. Other slaves were sent back to their masters, and still others escaped only to be tracked down later.
A few things changed after the Stono Rebellion, as it came to be known. First, the colonial assembly passed some new laws. Enslaved people could no longer grow food for themselves, earn money, assemble together, or receive an education. Masters, for their part, agreed to let slaves have Sundays off, give them what the masters considered proper food and clothing, and not kill slaves arbitrarily. Further, on a local level, some of the slaves who rebelled were severely punished by their masters. A few were even put to death. Other slaves who had remained loyal and hidden their masters during the rebellion were rewarded. Tension remained, though, and would continue over the next century.