There is more and more evidence that slave revolts were more common than reported in the current history books but it was not just African-American men who fought for freedom in dire circumstances. African-American women were warriors too. Primary sources are being used to find lots of women involved in various revolts They can be found in court records, ships logs, insurance policies, personal correspondence of owners, newspaper articles, and government documents. Sometimes the women are only referred by a first name or just as a female but they are in the records. Historians still have trouble defining exactly what qualifies as a revolt. Uprisings and acts of resistance happened everywhere: cities, plantations, slave ships, and wherever there was oppression.

Slave revolts on ships during the “middle passage” was determined to be 1 in every 10 ships. (according to the “Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: A Database” published in 1986 by Davis Eltis, Stephen Behrendyt, David RIchardson, and Herbert Klein) When the data was analyzed a surprising pattern emerged. The more women that were on a ship, the more likely there would be a revolt. Part of the reason is the arrogance of the slave traders who did not bother to lock up women since they were obviously “no threat” Men and boys were locked in irons and usually secured below, but women often were on the upper decks. It was common for women to be trained as fighters in order to defend their home villages and with this relative freedom to move around, the women could assemble weapons and plan attacks upon the captors. 

This is a little studied area of history and the links below are to Dr. Rebecca Hall’s work. She is the premiere historian in this area. Given that women are women regardless of skin color, doesn’t it make sense that African-American women would fight just as much as the men to protect themselves and their families?


Hear a whole discussion with Dr. Hall on the podcast “Unpopular” 

More about Dr. Hall’s graphic novel “Wake”

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