Gabriel Prosser: The Revolution

During the period of slavery in Jeffersonian America, African American slaves were fighting for their rights and freedom. One of them, the most prominent, was Gabriel Prosser, a blacksmith and a literate slave. He was of those African Americans who changed political and cultural currents in Virginia. We are not very sure of his last name, due to the fact that slaves were not considered important, thus their last name wasn’t known, so he became famous for his master’s last name, Prosser.

As a very skilled artisan, Gabriel was usually “hired out” to work in different places, which helped him to travel freely and see different ways of life outside Virginia. He was in a far better position than those plantation slaves, he had more mobility and autonomy, and that is why he had the opportunity to start the revolution that would end slavery. Unfortunately, he didn’t benefit from his revolution, but Gabriel Prosser was the initiator of the ideology that was later taken by the Democratic-Republicans as the way of fighting the Federalists.

“Death or Liberty” clearly expressed the purpose of the Revolution. The organization of the Revolution was a secret and Gabriel Prosser, together with some other artisans, planned to attack the Federalists with the help of around 1,000 slaves. They also expected help from poor white people, together with Quakers, Methodists, and Frenchmen. The Revolution was planned to occur on the 30th of August 1800. Gabriel thought that this was the most favourable period to start the Revolution, due the political violence of the 1790s and with some other revolutions that happened in that period. He also thought that Democratic-Republicans would support him because the attack would occur just before the 1800 election. In his planning of the revolt, he tried to inform as many slaves as possible of the life outside their communities. Prosser wanted to raise awareness of equality and a better life for slaves. But his fight was stopped by the traitors who informed the owners and the revolution was ended even before it started. Gabriel Prosser, together with 27 other black slaves, was executed by hanging. And after that, it all changed.

The life of slaves didn’t become any better, in fact, it was even worse. Now, many white people thought that it wasn’t a very good idea to give “that much freedom” to slaves. Slaves weren’t allowed anymore to be “hired out,” to travel freely, to even become literate. They were all suppressed by the new brutal regime that didn’t give another opportunity for any sort of unity of slaves.

Even though Gabriel Prosser died, his idea of the ending the slavery and his fight for humanity was not in vain. The freedom came later, with the Civil War in the 19th century, which was a milestone in the life of slaves.


As one of the founders of Knjaz Milos tries to bring all the latest news regarding politics. He loves history and is passionate about writing.
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