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What was Gabriel's Rebellion?

Gabriel's Rebellion was a planned revolt of the enslaved people around Richmond, Virginia, in 1800. An enslaved man named Gabriel Prosser was identified by White people as the leader of the conspiracy, which fell apart before it happened.

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Gabriel's Rebellion was an attempted uprising by enslaved people in Richmond, Virginia, in 1800. The recognized leader of the conspiracy was an enslaved man named Gabriel Prosser, a skilled blacksmith who attempted to organize dozens of slaves and free Black men in Richmond and the counties that surrounded it. Gabriel sought to take advantage of an especially tense and confused political environment in Virginia and the United States, as a divisive election approached and a "Quasi-War" between France and the United States divided American political opinions almost to the point of civil conflict. There is also considerable evidence that Gabriel and many of his comrades were influenced by the revolution in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which would lead to the emergence of Haiti. After the revolt, some who were privy to its origins testified that French agents provocateur had helped to encourage it.

The leaders of the conspiracy planned to march on Richmond and seize the weapons kept at the state arsenal there. They also planned—or at least some of them did—to take the state's governor, future US President James Monroe, prisoner. The ultimate plan was to capture the city of Richmond, destroy many of the state's slaveholders, and perhaps even gain independence.

The revolt never came to fruition, because, like many large-scale plots, at least two enslaved men warned the authorities about the plot. Gabriel and many of the other would-be rebels were executed by the state. The revolt did lead to serious discussion about gradual emancipation, though when the General Assembly failed to enact this measure, they actually passed more repressive slave laws.

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