Gabriel Prosser

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Gabriel Prosser (ca. 1775-1800), born in Henrico County, Virginia, was an African-American slave who, in the summer of 1800, planned an uprising of 1000 to 4000 (the exact number is unknown) Africans in Richmond, Virginia.

He was the slave of Thomas H. Prosser, but little else is known about his earlier life. He had been meticulously planning the revolt since the spring. On August 30, 1800, Gabriel led X slaves to carry out the rebellion. Torrential rain, however, postponed the rebellion. The slaves' masters had suspicion of the revolt; and before it could be carried out the following night they notified James Monroe, who in turn sent the state militia. Thus Gabriel found Richmond too heavily defended for the attack to continue, although as much as 1000 slaves had gathered on the outskirts. Gabriel tried to escape by schooner, but was spotted and betrayed by two fellow slaves. Gabriel was brought before Monroe for questioning, but would not submit. Gabriel and 34 of his followers were hanged.

This potential slave uprising was notable not because of its actual impact the rebellion was quelled before it could begin but because of the potential for mass chaos. Southern slave-owners became fearful of another slave rebellion. Gabriel had been able to plan the rebellion so well because of relatively lax rules of movement between plantations; as a result, many owners greatly restricted the slaves' rights of travel when not working. The fear of a slave revolt would persist until the abolition of slavery in the 1860s.

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