img_2794img_2792img_2790Herbert Aptheker, in his groundbreaking book “American Negro Slave Revolts,” documented more than 250 uprisings in the U.S. South that involved 10 or more slaves. These rebellions were neither uncommon nor isolated, but the unavoidable result of the intense oppression and exploitation enslaved Africans were made to endure.

These revolts were righteous resistance on the part of oppressed people. All progressives should raise up these historic acts of self-determination by enslaved Africans.

Many uprisings in North Carolina

Aptheker’s classic work was the first to bring to light the scope of these acts of resistance, including many rebellions that took place in North Carolina and the bloody repression that followed.

In 1830, wrote Aptheker, “the North Carolina legislature was secretly convened in order to devise means to suppress the dangerous disaffection of the [Black] population.” The slave masters had plenty of reason to worry. The natural tendencies of the oppressed to resist led to extensive organizing among the enslaved people. As in the Caribbean, so-called Maroon (short form of the Spanish word “cimaroon” meaning “runaway”) communities of escaped slaves were set up in the state. A runaway slave community was found in Cabarrus County in 1811. Gates County was the scene of Maroon activity in 1820. The following year Maroons were active in Onslow, Carteret and Bladen Counties, where it took 300 militia members to hunt down them.

The slave masters were vicious in their retribution. In 1805, slaves in three North Carolina counties allegedly formed a conspiracy to poison their masters. The slave masters responded by burning to death a Black woman. Three or four other African Americans were hanged.

To put these events in a global context, the slave owners in the U.S. South were desperately afraid of slave resistance following the victorious Haitian Revolution of 1791-1804,which ended slavery, kicked out the French colonialists and founded the Haitian republic.

Resistance against brutal oppression is the right of the oppressed. It’s not up to people on the sidelines to judge the tactics that the oppressed use — whether they be enslaved Africans in 1800s-era United States, Palestinians under threat of being “ethnically cleansed” out of their ancestral lands by U.S.-allied Israeli armed forces, or Colombian rebels like the FARC fighting against one of the most viciously pro-imperialist governments in South America.

It’s the duty of those not enduring that particular oppression, whatever it may be, to unconditionally uplift and support the struggles of the oppressed — against slavery, against capitalist exploitation and against imperialism.

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Haki Kweli Shakur 2-6-51ADM ATC NAPLA NAIM