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[Detail] sit-down strike after being refused service

Slavery - Resisting the Peculiar Institution

The section of the Special Presentation about slavery “explores the methods used by Africans and their American-born descendants to resist enslavement, as well as to demand emancipation and full participation in American society.” Resistance began on board slave trading ships. Read the context about resistance aboard the Hope and then examine this excerpt from the document describing the testimony of a witness to events on the ship.

After some time spent in trading at Goree, Captain Gould and Company in this aforesaid Brigantine Hope went to Gambia, and then returned to Goree and took in between thirty and forty slaves, and then went to Senegal and took in two or three more slaves, but did not go over the Bar. That whilst they lay there, one day about the 15. May the Captain was very tyrannical and had beat and abused all the people very much. . . in their passage, the slaves rose, and killed the carpenter, and wounded Taggart and Walker, but the slaves were suppressed after seven of them being destroyed . . .

From “A slave revolt aboard the brigantine Hope,” pages 1 and 2

  • According to the text in the Special Presentation, what event was being investigated when William Priest provided testimony? Given this event and the circumstances described in the excerpt above, how would you describe the atmosphere on the slave ship named Hope? How would you determine if other slave ships saw similar violence while at sea and in port?
  • Find information in the Special Presentation section on slavery about other slave revolts on board ships. When did these revolts occur? What was the outcome of these revolts? How were the issues around these revolts resolved?

Shipboard revolts were only one strategy people used to resist enslavement. Read the Special Presentation section on slavery and compile a chart showing other forms of resistance. For each form of resistance you list, give at least one example and its outcome. Also give your own assessment, based on evidence from the collection and any additional sources you can locate, of the potential of this strategy for achieving freedom in the short and long term. In your opinion, which strategies were most effective? Which most likely had the greatest effect in terms of ending slavery in the United States?