This slave revolt in South Carolina shifted attitudes about Africans in the U.S. colonies:
On September 9, 1739, a group of twenty slaves in the town of St. John’s Parish gathered together near the Stono River. St. John’s Parish was about 20 miles from Charlestown (now Charleston), South Carolina. The leader was a man named Jemmy, who was most likely born in Angola or the Kingdom of Kongo. He may have been able to read Portuguese. The first group of rebels were likely Angolan also.
It’s not clear what led to the revolt, but a few factors might have played a role. First, runaway slaves had been able to establish themselves in Spanish Florida, and the Spanish government had declared that any slaves who ran away to St. Augustine would be given land and freedom. The Kongolese slaves were likely able to understand Spanish and thus knew of the enmity between the Spanish and British colonies.
Second, the colony had just announced a Security Act that would require all White men to carry firearms to church on Sunday. The act had been passed in response to fears of revolt, and would go into effect on September 29. Few Whites carried guns at the time. For those slaves seeking their freedom, revolt would be much more dangerous after the act went into effect.
So the slaves gathered before dawn on September 9, a Sunday. Carrying a banner and shouting “Liberty!”, they first marched to a shop that sold firearms, killed the shopkeepers, and took weapons for themselves. They then went south, killing Whites and recruiting other slaves along the way. At one house, the slaves hid their master (they were later rewarded with some clothes and cash).
By the afternoon, the slaves had gone about 10 miles and killed about 25 Whites. One White who had escaped the mob had been able to raise an alarm. A group of Whites set out to pursue the slaves and met them in a large field near the Edisto River. A battle ensued, and about 20 Whites and 30 slaves were killed. Other slaves escaped, but they were captured over the next few months and executed. One remained a fugitive for three years.
The revolt was the largest rebellion in the British colonies before the Revolutionary War. It sparked other rebellions in South Carolina and Georgia, and quickened the passing of the Negro Act of 1740. The Negro Act had been under considered that would limit the free movement and education of slaves. The rebellion also heightened the sense that slaves needed to be controlled and that slaves born in the colonies would be more easily controlled than Africans. The colonies instituted a 10-year moratorium on importing slaves and later imported them from regions other than Angola and the Kongo Kingdom.