Moments of Black Resistance
“As long as there has been oppression, there has been resistance and Black Joy”
The Stono Rebellion
This rebellion, which took place in South Carolina in 1739, was the largest uprising of enslaved people in the British colonies. It was led by native Africans, in resistance of slavery. The result resulted in the solidification of slavery in Carolina, yet this event was still a monumental moment for Black resistance to white supremacy and racism.
Nat Turner’s Rebellion
Led by Nat Turner, an enslaved preacher who led the four day rebellion in Virginia in August 1831. The rebellion killed around 60 people, most who were white, leading to organized militias and the state killing 56 enslaved people who were part of the rebellion, and about 120 others, by the militia mobs. The rebellion also led to stricter laws against Black individuals. However, this act of resistance showed white people that enslaved people were not happy or content with their lives in slavery, and that they would rebel violently to injustice.
Running away was a form of resistance to the white system of racism and slavery. Some ran away to escape punishment, to find relief from a heavy workload, or to escape all together. Those who ran away were referred to as freedom seekers, who would flee the plantation where they were enslaved and run to a forest to hide; where they formed Maroon communities of many freedom seekers. Once sought freedom, others would help each other, hiding instructions for freedom in music, words of spirituals, and guides such as the North star and Big DIpper. A network was later formed and called the Underground railroad in the 1830s “conducted” by Harriet Tubman. Freedom seeking was extremely risky and many looked to run away and escape without the help of others.
Day-to-Day Acts of Rebellion in the Past
Setting fire to buildings
Pretending to misunderstand tasks or commands
Slowing down work
Formation of culture and religious beliefs separate of those presented by whiteness
All of these (and more) were acts of resistance in itself, no matter how small. Black people have always resisted white supremacy and racism whenever possible.
Storytelling is a large part of African and African American culture. It shares narratives of history, myths, imagination, lessons, creativity, and celebrates their culture and traditions. However, Black individuals were stripped of their culture and traditions and forced into whiteness when enslaved. A form of resistance was storytelling, sometimes in their native languages, through folktales that would celebrate their identity while resisting whiteness.
The Black Panther Party
A revolutionary party formed in the 1960s, and founded officially in 1966 in Oakland, CA by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The purpose of the group was to protect Black people and neighborhoods from police brutality and white supremacy. The Panthers later formed into a Marxist revolutionist group that wanted to arm the Black community (that was victims of police brutality), to release all Black individuals from jail, and demanded reparations for Black people. The party also provided food, clothing, and transportation as community service programs. The aim was to resist capitalism (a structure that promotes, breeds, and upholds white supremacy), racism, and the killing of Black people, while promoting social change and community reforms. Some influential members of the party included Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver, Elaine Brown, Stokely Carmichael, and Fred Hampton. This was resistance to whiteness and oppression as a whole, by reforming the way oppression, racism, and police brutality in communities was viewed in America. It gave power, support, and inspiration to Black people.
Racism and white supremacy- which in turn brew discrimination, police brutality, prejudice, violence, hate, oppression- is to supress and keep others down or below another group. Black joy is the idea that Black people can be happy despite the trauma and history of oppression that they have faced, endured, and continue to carry in this society. When the Black community continues to live fully, confidently, successfully, and thrive, it is a form of resistance to the positions of power, to oppression and the oppressors (whiteness/ white supremacy).