Slave Rebellion

1733-1835: History is marked by slave rebellions throughout the islands of the Caribbean

As sugar crops continued to flourish in the Caribbean, the number of blacks generously surpassed the number of whites living in the region. This led to great difficulties for the white planters, who used their slaves to produce these all-important crops.

An average ratio across the islands was 10 blacks or mulattoes to every one white, but in the countrysides filled with sugar plantations, the ratio was closer to 50 blacks or mulattoes to every white person. White people began to grow anxious about this ethnic discrepancy.

Who Rebelled?

Revolts by slaves had always been common, but a pattern developed over the years. Newly purchased slaves were more likely to revolt than Creoles, or slaves born in the islands. During times of war, the French also encouraged British slaves to rebel.

Many slaves brought to the islands were Coromantee Africans, slaves brought in from the Gold Coast. Many of these people were the Akan, often from the Ashanti tribe. However, Coromantee warriors captured in battle did not easily leave their leadership positions for servitude.

A particularly noteworthy example of such a Coromantee-chief-led rebellion is Tacky's Rebellion on Jamaica in 1760. Tacky led slaves around the island to revolt, murdering a shopkeeper on Easter morning and stealing guns, gunpowder, and other necessary supplies. They then moved inland, taking over estates and killing the whites of the plantation - who were often still asleep in their beds.

Though the militia and armed troops quickly captured and put down this first outbreak, the next several months on the island of Jamaica were filled with slave uprisings. In the end, some 60 whites and between 300 and 400 blacks were killed.

More Rebellions

Slave uprisings occurred throughout the islands, though many would-be revolt leaders were caught before rebellions could begin. The dates below list some of the larger rebellions that were staged from 1733 to 1835. But on islands that had held slaves since the earliest days of colonization, such as Barbados, a majority of slave revolts usually occurred before these dates.

Island Year About the Event
Antigua 1735 Conspiracy involving blacks and mulattoes around the island.

1831 Thousands of slaves rose up, committing arson and rioting.
Bahamas (Exuma) 1830 Several slaves rose up.
Bahamas (Exuma, Eleuthera, Cat Island) 1832-1834 Widespread rebellion where hundreds of slaves rose up together.
Barbados 1816 Bussa's rebellion took place, involving thousands of slaves.
Cuba 1805 Slave rebellion recorded.

1809 Hundreds rose up in many provinces and in Havana.

1825 Hundreds of slaves rose up in Matanzas.

1826 Several slaves rebelled in Guira.

1830-1831 Several coffee estate slaves rebelled.

1833 A few sugar estate slaves revolted.
Curaçao 1795 Slaves led by Tula and Carpata rose up by the thousands.
Dominica 1785-1790 Dominica's First Maroon War took place.

1791 A rebellion on New Year's Day in which hundreds of windward slaves rebelled.

1795 The Colihaut uprising involved hundreds of slaves.

1802 Hundreds are involved in the mutiny of the Eighth West Indian Regiment.

1809-1814 Thousands take part in Dominica's Second Maroon War.
Grenada 1765 Maroons encourage and participate in a revolt of hundreds.

1795 Fedon's Rebellion, involving both freed men and slaves, takes thousands.
Guadeloupe 1737 Hundreds are involved in the Revolt of Latulipe.

1789 The French Revolution causes an uprising of thousands.
Hispaniola (French) 1752-1758 Mackandal unites the Maroons, and hundreds fight.

1791 Thousands rebel during the French Revolution.
Jamaica 1742 Dozens of Coromantees in St. Ann's Parish conspire to revolt.

1745 Hundreds of Africans plan a revolt in St. David's.

1760 Tacky's Rebellion.

1765 Coromantees in St. Mary's rebel.

1766 Westmorland slaves revolt.

1776 Africans and Creoles in Hanover Parish plan a large rebellion.

1791 Many rebellions in the year following the Haitian revolt.

1795 Jamaica's Second Maroon War.

1806 Several slaves in St. George's Parish caught planning a rebellion.

1808 Mutiny of the Second West Indian Regiment.

1815 Under Ibos, hundreds of slaves rebel.

1822-1824 Unrest in Hanover is widespread, and hundreds rebel.

1831-1832 The "Baptist War" takes place on Christmas when thousands rise up.
Marie Galante (Guadeloupe) 1789 During the French Revolution, many rise up.
Martinique 1752 Rebellion.

1789-1792 Thousands rebelled during the French Revolution.

1822 Rebellion.

1833 Rebellion.
Montserrat 1768 Many planned a rebellion.

1776 Rebellion.
Nevis 1776 Rebellion.
St. John (US Virgin Islands) 1733 Slave rebellion in the fight for freedom in the USVI
St. Kitts 1778 Some planned to rebel on the island.
St. Lucia 1795 Brigands War.
St. Vincent 1769-1773 The Black Carib (mixed escaped slaves and Caribs) fought the First Carib war.
Tobago 1770 Revolt in Courland Bay.

1771 Rebellion in Bloody Bay.

1774 Queen's Bay rebellion.

1801 Creoles planned a Christmas rebellion.

1807 Hundreds of slaves marched on the Government House.
Tortola (British Virgin Islands) 1790 Hundreds revolt on Pickering's estates.

1823 Hundreds revolt on Pickering's estates again.

1830 Hundreds of Lettsome slaves revolt.

1831 A plot involves slaves across the whole island.
Trinidad 1805 Hundreds of French slaves plot a revolt.

Throughout history, Jamaica was home to more slave rebellions than all of the other British islands combined.

These rebellions were a part of the larger picture. Emancipation began to become a truly important part of the world view in the 1800s, and the slaves, too, were aware of the political climate. The French Revolution served to further the campaign to free blacks.

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