January 30, 2023

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10 Black Uprisings Against European and Arab Oppression They Won’t Teach in Schools

Guiné Bissau

Guinea-Bissau War of Independence

In January 1963, the Marxist African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, PAIGC, retaliated against their colonial oppressors by attacking the Portuguese headquarters in Tite.  Resistance quickly spread across the entire colony, sparking the Guinea-Bissau War of Independence, a bloody conflict which would eventually be labeled “Portugal’s Vietnam”.

The war between the well-trained and well-led PAIGC guerrillas and the Portuguese Army would prove to be the most intense and damaging of all the conflicts that occurred during the Portuguese Colonial wars. Despite Portugal ratcheting up its offensive posture with troop reinforcements, superior weaponry and divide and conquer techniques, the PAIGC continued to increase its strength and dealt several severe blows to the Portuguese defense forces.

A coup in Portugal on August 26, 1974, also helped the PAIGC’s fight for independence. On August 26, 1974, the new Portuguese leaders and the PAIGC signed an accord in Algeria, in which Portugal agreed to remove all troops by the end of October and to officially recognize the PAIGC controlled government of the Republic of Guinea-Bissau.

Courland Bay Revolt

Courland Bay Revolt

In the 15-day Courland Bay revolt, which took place in Tobago, W.I., enslaved African, Sandy, organized forty men and led them in an uprising against slave plantation owners, their estates, and the island’s military.

After Sandy killed the owner of the plantation where he worked, he and his men burned several estates killing many plantation owners and burned cane fields as they marched their way to attack the Courland Bay military post. The whites at the post couldn’t contain the revolutionaries, and days later had to call in reinforcement from Barbados. Sandy and his army eventually fled the island to nearby Trinidad, where they escaped to the interior of the island.

After the revolt, plantation owners were highly fearful of a further insurrection. They were particularly concerned because of the high number of enslaved Africans in comparison to the white population. They were correct in their assessment because several other uprisings followed the Courland Bay revolt.

This list is the second part in a series of Black Uprisings against European and Arab Oppression. The first list in the series “15 Black Uprisings Against European and Arab Oppression They Won’t Teach in Schools” may be found here.


1842 Slave Revolt in the Cherokee Nation

In 1842, the largest assembly of escaped enslaved Africans ripped through the Cherokee Nation, where in present day is called the midwestern United States.

November 15, 1842, a group of enslaved Blacks owned by the Cherokee Indians escaped and tried to reach Mexico–where slavery had been abolished. During their migration to Mexico, the revolutionaries had threatened the security of established labor forces. A militia was formed to capture the run-a-ways.  The enslaved Blacks, who were on the run, were able to overtake members of the militia and kill them.

Even though these enslaved Africans-Americans never made it to Mexico, the revolution inspired subsequent slave rebellions throughout all of North America.

Baptist War

Baptist War or The Christmas Uprising

The Christmas Uprising of 1831–32, which was led by Jamaican Baptist preacher, Samuel Sharpe, was a 10-day revolt in which 60,000 of Jamaica’s 300,000 enslaved population engaged in the conflict.

During the Christmas holiday of 1831, Sharpe recited a speech to tens of thousands of his followers, persuading them to stop working unless they receive pay for the labor. When the demands weren’t met, the protest escalated into a full-scale revolt across the western part of Jamaica. The 60,000 men killed several plantation owners and burned several estates, with the Kensington estate being the most popular. The uprising caused $1,865,815.82 in damage, which equals an estimated $84,032,000 in modern terms.

Samuel Sharpe’s Baptist War was the largest uprising in British West Indies history.

Just a week after the war was over, the British Parliament began the process to abolish slavery. After months of debate, the Act for the Abolition of Slavery was passed in Jamaica in 1833.

The Mau Mau - Kenya's Freedom Fighters

The Mau Mau – Kenya’s Freedom Fighters

The Mau Mau rebellion was an uprising of landless, slave-wage laborers in Kenya, who were frustrated with the racist colonial system that was established by the British to steal land and resources from Blacks to give to white colonizers. It was led by leaders such as Jomo Kenyata, Dedan Kimathi, Waruhiu Itote or General China, and Tom Mboya.

The movement began with overt passive resistance in 1946, but erupted in an all out rebellion in 1952 with a force numbering roughly 30,000 to a million Kenyans, mostly from the Kikuyu ethnic group.

The Mau Mau organized a secret society and a fighting force that had to take an oath to remove British rule and European settlers from the country. Wings of the movement began armed guerrilla attacks on white settler holdings and on Africans who supported the British regime.

By late 1952, the colonial governor of Kenya declared a state of emergency, and employed brutal methods to put down the rebellion, including brutal torture tactics, lynchings, forced migrations, and detention and labor camps. Although the British quelled the uprising four years later, the seeds of Kenya’s Independence, had already been sown.

The Palmares Quilombo

The Palmares Quilombo

During slavery in Brazil, the enslaved Africans, or Maroons, who fought and escaped captivity, formed several sustainable states called Quilombos.

The most famous Quilombo was Palmares, an independent, self-sustaining republic near Recife, which was established in 1600 and survived for 100 years. Palmares was massive, consisting of several settlements with a combined population of over 30,000 blacks who fought and escaped from slavery.

Over the course of the century, Quilombo dos Palmares had armies which rescued other enslaved Africans from the plantations and brought them to Palmares territory. The most popular Palmares warriors-leaders were Ganga Zumba and Zumbi. When the Dutch and the Portuguese repeatedly attacked the Palmares trying to enslave the Black people again, Zumba, Zumbi and the Palmares warriors killed thousands of white soldiers, defeating the Europeans several times within that century.

slave revolt

The St. John Insurrection

On November 23, 1733 African slave called Akwamu, of the Akan people of Ghana, led one of the longest and most costly insurrections known to have occurred on U.S. soil.  The revolt took place  in St. John Virgin Islands, where the Akwamus easily overwhelmed the owners and managers of the island’s plantations. They took over a crucial military fort in Coral Bay and with that they took control over most of the island.

They had an ingenious plan. With the French nearly all wiped out, they resumed crop production under their control for their benefit, for as long as a year.

Bussa’s Revolution

Bussa’s Revolution

In 1816, Bussa, an African-born Bajan slave, led an uprising in Barbados which is popularly known as Bussa’s Revolution.

On Easter Sunday, April 14, Bussa organized an island-wide revolt and marched his army of thousands into battle against white slave owners who occupied the island. The fighters eventually killed several plantation owners and took over half the island before the war was over.

Bussa’s Revolution was the first of three large-scale slave revolts in the British West Indies. After the war, a white plantation owner was quoted saying:

“The disposition to an enslaved persons in general is very bad. We hold the West Indies by a very precarious tenure – that of military strength only. I would not give a year’s purchase for any island we now have.”

First Battle of Dongola1

First Battle of Dongola

After the Arab military leader ‘Amr ibn al-‘As conquered Egypt from the Byzantine Empire in 640, he sent troops to North Africa and Nubia. In 642, ‘Amr ibn al-‘As sent a column formation of 20,000 horsemen under the leadership of his cousin, Uqba ibn Nafi, to conquer the Nubian kingdom of Makuria. The Arabs reached as far as Dongola, the capital of Makuria, before they suffered a major defeat by Makurian warriors.

According to historian Al-Baladhuri, the Arabs found that the Nubians fought strongly and met them with showers of arrows. The majority of the Arab forces returned with wounded and blinded eyes. It was thus that the Nubians were called ‘the pupil smiters‘. Al-Baladhuri recalls one of his sources saying, “One day they came out against us and formed a line; we wanted to use swords, but we were not able to, and they shot at us and put out eyes to the number of one hundred and fifty.”

The Nubian victory at Dongola was one of the Rashidun Caliphate’s rare defeats during the mid-7th century. Having archers with deadly marksmanship and highly skilled and experienced cavalry forces, Makuria was able to force the Arabs to withdraw their forces from Nubia.


The Black Seminole Slave Rebellion

From 1835-1838 in Florida, the Black Seminoles, African allies of Seminole Indians, led the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history.

The uprising peaked in 1836 when hundreds of enslaved Africans fled their plantations to join the rebel forces in the Second Seminole War. At the height of the revolt, at least 385 enslaved Africans fought alongside the Indian Seminole allies to destroy more than twenty-one sugar plantations in central Florida from December 25, 1835 through to the summer of 1836.

At the time, sugar was the most valuable crop and Florida was the most highly developed agricultural region in North America. The destruction of Florida plantations was reported to have cost the U.S. untold millions. In 1838, the U.S. Army allowed 500 Blacks to move west with Seminole Indians. Half received promises of freedom, the only emancipation of revolutionary Blacks in the U.S. before the Civil War.

Source: 10 Black Uprisings Against European and Arab Oppression They Won’t Teach in Schools

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