Slavery began in the late 16th century to early 18th century. Africans were brought to American colonies by white Europeans to come and work on their plantations in the South as well as, the North. They were treated harshly with no payments for all their hard work. Moreover, they lived under harsh living conditions a factor that would later lead to their resistance in opposition of these conditions. Racism towards African Americans who were slaves was at its extreme since they did not have any rights; civil nor political. African American slaves had three forms of resistance to slavery which were; escaping, day-to-day acts, as well as, rebellion; however, the most effective method among the three was day-to-day resistance.
The conditions were worse for the slaves, and their resolute decision was to resist along with freeing themselves. African slaves used various strategies of resistance to slavery. Raboteau states that, “such resistance ranged from shirking assigned work to sabotage, escape and rebellion” (204). African Americans did all they could so as to be free from slavery.
The major form of resistance the slaves were using is escaping. The Underground Railway was their main route for escape in the 1800s, and it helped them escape to the North. They ran away from their masters especially when they were to be punished, or to get relief from a heavy work load. After escaping, they would come together, and educate each other on how to stop slavery, and being used by the white Europeans. Some slaves were able to escape slavery permanently by going to the North where there was no slavery in some areas, while others were caught by their masters and punished.
Another most common form of resistance slaves used was known as day-to-day resistance. This was small-acts rebellion, whereby, they could fail to report to the farms (Hine, Hine, and Harrold, 66). Sabotage was also another form of day-to-day resistance. The slaves broke their working tools, set the buildings on fire to avoid working, poisoned their masters’ animals, crops, and even the masters themselves. This helped them meet, and educate each other on how to be free from slavery. To add to that, the slaves also used ways like being ignorant, malingering, and being slow while working so that their masters could get tired of them, and set them free. They could also feign sickness to avoid working, and gain relief from the harsh working conditions. Some slaves even used extreme forms of day-to day acts like suicide, arson, as well as murder of their masters and mistresses. According to Vox, slaves could go to the extreme of taking poison, cutting of their fingers, arms, legs, and toes just to avoid working. Furthermore, they poisoned, injured, and murdered their masters in desperate hopes of getting freedom from slavery as well as the harsh treatments that accompanied it
Slaves used rebellion as a form of resistance. However, the result of slave insurrections was mass executions, and many of them avoided rebellion for the fear of being executed. The famous insurrections in the American history were the Gabriel Prossey's conspiracy in 1800, Nat Turner's Rebellion in 1831, and the Stono Rebellion of 1739. Among these rebellions, only the Nat Turner's Rebellion in 1831 and the Stono Rebellion of 1739 were successful. During this insurrection, the slaves killed the whites, seized their arms along with burning their houses. Additionally, many slave revolts erupted in the 18th century for example; in Grenada, Jamaica, Guadeloupe, Venezuela, and San Dominguez (Raboteau 67). Many slaves were able to flee to remote regions, and carry on with guerilla warfare. Major revolts against slavery took place in many cities in Virginia, Louisiana, Barbados, South Carolina, and other cities. Many slave owners became anxious of the revolts, and managed to derail them before they took place; they arrested, and executed the planners. “The accused received public trials” (Hine, Hine, and Harrold 162). Rebellion was a good form of resistance but, many slaves were imprisoned, and executed if caught.
Additionally, slaves used theft as a form of resistance. The slaves stole money, food, liquor, and even livestock from their masters. They did steal from their masters to irritate them, and when confronted, they would slow down on their work. This was a prefect form of resistance from heavy workloads. Likewise, the slaves refused to do satisfactory work. They did careless work on the plantations, and homes of their masters so as to rebel against slavery. Slaves could use their native languages in dances plus songs to provoke, and tease their masters without their knowledge as a form of resistance.
The slaves used covert ways in order to be successful since open revolt, and violent resistance strategies had dire consequences. The covert forms were successful to them because, they realized that in order to survive as well as live a trouble-free life, acceptance and cooperation was obligatory. The most effective method of slavery resistance was the day-to-day resistance (Bauer and Bauer, 392). It was more effective because, the slaves were able to evade doing the day’s work loads. The small acts of resistance helped to eliminate the institution of slavery as it pushed the boundaries of freedom slowly eroding it. Slaves pushed their masters to relieve them of heavy workloads, and give them some freedom; when they declined, they punctuated to every day’s forms of resistance which led to running away and not reporting to the farms. The slaves were able to relieve themselves from heavy workloads, and even free themselves completely from slavery by escaping.
The overt forms of resistance did not work well for them because, if caught by their masters, they had dire consequences. Armed rebellion was used less frequent than concealed forms of resistance. Rebellion forms of resistance were discovered in advance even before they were carried out, and this form of resistance was less effective. Marronage was used, but, this strategy angered the slave masters; those found were brutally beaten and murdered.
The geographical location influenced the type of resistance slaves used against slavery. Those who were familiar with the geographical terrain of North America found it easy to escape to the North without any difficulties. The slaves in Border States had an advantage because they were able to escape easily to the North, and even to Canada. Slaves who were familiar with the outside world were privileged because; it was easy for them to run away from their masters. In addition, those in mountains, swamps, and frontier regions were able to resist being captured by their masters while running away because; their geographical locations favored them.
In conclusion, African Americans worked as slaves for white Europeans for many years. They became increasingly dissatisfied with slavery, and they decided to resists against this institution. Africans fought to overcome the institution of slavery, and they were able to do it. They used the three forms of resistance against slavery which were; escaping, day-to-days acts, and rebellion against their masters. The most effective form of resistance was day-to-day resistance, and this relieved them from their work loads. African-Americans fought against the institution of slavery, until they were able to eliminate it by becoming free citizens just like the whites.
Bauer, Raymond A. And Bauer, Alice H. Day to Day Resistance to Slavery. The Journal of
Negro History 27. 4 (1942): 388-419. Print.
Hine, Darlene Clark, Hine, William C. and Harrold, Stanley C. African Americans: A Concise
History. New York: Pearson, 2014. Print.
Raboteau, Albert J. Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South. New
York: Oxford University Press US, 2004. Print.
Vox, Lisa. About.com. How Did Slaves Resist Slavery? African American History, n.d. Web. 17