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There were many ways in which slaves could resist the people who owned them. Let us look at three of them.
First, there were slave rebellions. These were the most drastic sorts of resistance. These involved violence by slaves against the people who owned them and generally against other whites as well. Since this sort of resistance was so drastic and had such a small chance of success, relatively few slaves engaged in it.
Second, there was escape. One thing that slaves could do to resist was to try to deprive their owners of their “property.” By escaping, a slave could hurt their owner both in terms of prestige and in economic terms. Of course, this sort of resistance could also lead to freedom for the slave. This was much more common than slave rebellions, but was still not terribly common as it had a relatively low chance of success, particularly for slaves in the Deep South.
Finally, there was the most common form of resistance. This was everyday resistance that came in very small, subtle ways. It might not even be perceived as resistance by the slaveowners. Here, slaves deliberately worked poorly and/or slowly. They deliberately broke tools. They malingered. In other words, they did as much as they could to harm their owners’ economic interests. The resisted by working only unwillingly and at a much lower level of productivity than they could have.
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