Gabriel Prosser's Rebellion

Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader

The Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Gabriel Prosser: A Brief Synopsis

Gabriel Prosser was executed for inciting the first large scale slave uprising in the United States; however, details were leaked and the revolt did not come to fruition.

The Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Gabriel Prosser: Appearance and Trade

Gabriel and his two brothers, Martin and Solomon, were owned by Thomas Prosser; a young man who had inherited Brookfield Plantation from his father. Though we incorrectly refer to Gabriel having his master's surname, he is solely referred to in history by his forename alone. He was noted as being six foot two or three, with scarring to his face and missing two front teeth. Literate and a skilled blacksmith, Gabriel was credited with being of above intelligence for a bondsman. As he was hired out to others in the city, he was afforded more freedom than other slaves; it was easy for Gabriel to see friends as he travelled, and he would often associate with freemen and other like minded individuals.

escaped slave and leader of slave rebellion, Gabriel Prosser
Gabriel Prosser, the famous slave and rebellion leader (public domain)

The Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Gabriel Prosser: The Criminal

In September 1799, Gabriel and fellow slave Jupiter stole a pig from Absalom Johnson. When caught, Gabriel wrestled him to the ground and bit off part of Johnson's left ear. Whilst maiming a white person was punishable by death, Gabriel was released through the 'benefit of clergy' loophole; allowing him to escape with branding if he could recite a verse from the bible.

Gabriel's Prosser's Rebellion

Unhappy with the injustice of being a slave, Gabriel recruited followers from numerous Virginia towns in an uprising. Together they stole weapons and secretly refashioned scythes in to swords, or daggers in to pikes; their intent to overtake the armoury so that they could easily overcome their white masters, letting Quakers, Methodists and Frenchmen go. The first white people that Gabriel intended to kill were his own master, and Absalom Johnson, together with neighbour Mosby Sheppard. The rebellion was postponed on 30 August 1800 due to poor weather conditions as the bridges and roads they needed to travel were not accessible. Intending to carry out their mission the following afternoon, their plan was foiled when two slaves told their owner of the plan.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE FAMOUS SLAVE GABRIEL PROSSER

Name: Gabriel
AKA:
Gabriel Prosser, General Gabriel, Gabriel the Blacksmith
Birth:
1776, Henrico County, Virginia
Sentenced:
6 October 1800
Death:
10 October 1800, Virginia
Cause:
Hanging
Trade:
Blacksmith
Famed for:
Planning the earliest large scale slave revolt in the United States
Spouse:
Nanny

The Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Gabriel Prosser: The Fugitive, Death and Aftermath

Gabriel initially escaped on a schooner named The Mary Richard; the captain was believed to have deliberately turned a blind eye to the fugitive; his slaves had brought the matter to his attention and it was apparent that if Gabriel was a free man as he claimed, he would have had free papers. He was eventually turned in by a hired slave for the reward. Gabriel, along with his brothers and twenty three other co-conspirators, were executed, though Gabriel pleaded Not Guilty. The decision was swift and announced on 6 October 1800, for Gabriel to be hung the following day. Under Virginia law, the state was required to reimburse the slave's master should they be executed; it was decided in the minutes of Gabriel's trial, that his life was worth $150. Not all those accused were executed; some were pardoned or banished from the state, and in order to prevent further uprisings, many slaveholders restricted slaves' travel when not working.

 

Sources: 

  1. Philip Schwartz - Gabriel's Conspiracy: A Documentary History

  2.  Douglas R Egerton - Gabriel's Rebellion: The Virginia Slave Conspiracies of 1800 and 1802

  3. Patricia L Dooly - The Early Republic: Primary Documents on Events from 1799-1820

  4. Encyclopedia of Virginia

  5. The Library of Virginia

The Biography of Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Gabriel Prosser

  • The Biography of Gabriel Prosser, for Education and Learning
  • Gabriel Prosser's Efforts to End Slavery
  • Information About the Life and Death of Gabriel Prosser

 

  • Quick Facts About Rebellion Leader Gabriel Prosser
  • Information About the Aftermath of the Rebellion Instigated by Gabriel Prosser

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