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Resistance to slavery demonstrates the harsh reality of the institution and makes clear the essential humanity of enslaved people. Pierce Butler’s plantations and had spent all of their lives enslaved under one family.
Teachers have to talk about how enslaved people tried to minimize the amount of energy they expended toiling in fields by slowing the pace of work, feigning illness, breaking farming implements, injuring animals and sabotaging crops.
And how they took for themselves life’s essentials, from food to clothing, which they consumed, shared, traded and sold.
In 1800, an enslaved blacksmith named Gabriel, who lived and worked near Richmond, plotted to topple the Old Dominion’s slaveholding regime.
Gabriel planned to lead a group of armed rebels to Richmond to seize the state capital.
Enslaved people formed families whenever possible, marrying, bearing children and keeping those children with them as long as possible.
They also held onto African cultural traditions, such as religious worship practices, which remain visible today among their descendants.
It leaves students thinking that only those who attempted to flee wanted their freedom.
Instead, teachers must spend an equal if not greater amount of time on the subtler ways that African Americans resisted, drawing students’ attention to the everyday acts of defiance that were far more common than rebellion or flight.
Along the way, he intended to recruit fellow enslaved people and was willing to kill anyone who dared to stop them.
And to invoke the spirit of the American Revolution, as well as to call out the hypocrisy of American revolutionaries who refused to abolish slavery, he planned to carry a banner that read “Death or Liberty.” But Gabriel’s bold bid to secure his freedom and spark a rebellion that would spread throughout the slaveholding South ended before it could really begin.