Over the course of our history as Africans, we have been known for our resilience and hard spirit. No other people on the face of the earth has been through hell and back as much as we have been. But we still come out strong, and willing to defend ourselves against all odds.
The encounter of the African people with Europeans, cost us much and continues to cost us economically, socially, physically, psychologically and otherwise. But we believe that the biggest scar that was dealt with the African people, was the scar of slavery.
History holds it that as at the beginning of the 1700s, there were millions of Africans enslaved all over the world, and over 1 million Africans enslaved in America. At that point, slavery was a lucrative business, and that meant that the slavers spent the entire year making round trips to Africa to take people to fuel the American economy, through agriculture among many other industries.
These slaves started to form associations, getting together to educate themselves and talk about the issues that affected them. Most times, these slaves were from more than one plantation, and they would pick secret locations to have these meetings.
The major objective of their meetings was to unite the slaves in one purpose, and to one day become strong enough to fight against the system and people that enslaved them.
It was one of these secret meetings that gave birth to the biggest slave rebellion in the south of America – in the British colony of South Carolina.
At that time, Florida, which was under Spanish control, was freeing the African slaves and offering them lands to use. This sparked the interest of the slaves in South Carolina, and they had several meetings to plan their escape to Florida.
One of the leaders of the slaves was an educated elite slave, called Jemmy. On the 9th of September, 1739, he and the other slaves gathered close to the Stono River to plan their escape and trip to Spanish Florida.
20 of the slaves, led by Jemmy, matched from Stono River back to South Carolina, chanting freedom songs and holding up a banner that read ‘Liberty’! While they matched, other slaves joined them, till they got to Stono Bridge. At Stono Bridge, they attacked a store that sold weapons, called Hutchenson Store. The angry and fed up slaves killed the two white storekeepers and raided the store, taking all the guns and gunpowder they could find.
At that point, their number was above 60, and they stormed as many plantations as they could, killing slave owners and freeing other slaves. As the rebels freed the slaves, they directed them to head towards Spanish Florida, while the rebels continued their onslaught.
While they were busy freeing their people, the news of their attack was traveling across South Carolina. They had killed about 30 white slave owners at that point.
The news got to the Lieutenant Governor, William Bull, who immediately send word to the remaining slave owners to go into hiding to save their lives. While the slaveowners hid, their slaves escaped and ran away.
The governor sent out word to white militants and slave hunters, who arrived with arms and joined him in chasing down the rebels, who were then on their way to Spanish Florida.
When the white militants caught up with the African rebels, a battle broke out. After the battle, 30 of the white militants lay dead, while 60 of the African rebels were killed. The rebels were overpowered and captured, together with the other slaves who ran away.
When all the slaves were rounded up, the governor oversaw the execution of the remaining rebels, who they saw as a stubborn, and would eventually rise up again if left alive. The other slaves whose masters had been killed were sold off to other plantations.
The Stono rebellion gave impetus to the slaves, and this led to countless more rebellions and killing of slave owners. At some point, slaves wanted nothing but to take the lives of their owners. These killings of slave owners led to the passing of a law by the legislature of South Carolina. It was called the Negro Act of 1740.
The law made it illegal for slaves to meet, grow their own food and educate themselves. The law also prohibited the slaves from earning any form of money or involving in the trade of any kind.
To protect the interests of the white slave owners, the law reduced the population of slaves in a particular plantation, so that a one slave owner could not have more than 10 slaves, in this way reducing the population of those that would rebel.
According to Face2Face Africa, the identity of Jemmy and the slaves who rebelled were found to be slaves from the ancient Kongo Empire. This is mainly because the Africans who were enslaved in South Carolina were Africans who spoke Portuguese.
Now, when historical accounts and demographics are traced, the slaves in South Carolina were mainly brought in from Central Africa, and particularly from the Kingdom of Kong. Historical documents point to the slave trade agreement between the Portuguese and the royals.
The importance of such lessons in history is to clearly make our people understand that we have been resisting bondage for centuries as a people. And that it is important that this generation keep faith and bones alive and fight against the many oppressors that seek to continue keeping Africa in bondage.
African is rising again. And she needs all of her warriors to stand tall and fight for her.