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Wed, 09.09.1739

The Stono Rebellion Occurs

Stono Historic Marker

*The Stono Rebellion began on this date in 1739.  Sometimes called Cato's Conspiracy or Cato's Rebellion, it was a slave revolt in the (then) colony of South Carolina.

Black Africans kidnapped from the Central African Kingdom of Kongo led the uprising, as some of the rebels spoke Portuguese.  Their leader, Jemmy, was a literate slave who is referred to as "Cato" from a family who lived near the Ashley River nearby.  He led 20 slaves in an armed march south from the Stono River southwest of Charleston.  They attacked a store at the Stono River Bridge, killing two storekeepers and seizing weapons and ammunition.  

They advanced south toward Spanish Florida, gathering more recruits for a total of 81. They burned six plantations and killed 23 to 28 whites along the way.  South Carolina's Lieutenant Governor quickly warned other slaveholders.  Rallying a militia of planters and slaveholders on horseback, the colonists caught up with the slaves at the Edisto River.  In the ensuing conflict, 23 whites and 47 slaves were killed. While the slaves lost, the colonists mounted the severed heads of the rebels on stakes along roadways as a warning for other slaves who might consider revolt. 

The lieutenant governor hired Chickasaw and Catawba natives and other slaves to track down and capture the Africans who had escaped from the battle.  The colonists executed most of the rebellious slaves; they sold other slaves off to the markets of the West Indies.  In response to the rebellion, the South Carolina legislature passed the Negro Act of 1740, restricting slave assembly, education, and movement.

It also enacted a 10-year moratorium against importing African slaves because they were considered more rebellious and established penalties against slaveholders' harsh treatment of slaves. It required legislative approval for each act of manumission, which slaveholders had previously been able to arrange privately. This sharply reduced the rate of manumissions in the state.


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