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Rebellion April 1836     
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View the locations of the East Florida slave uprising
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Based on original research from the manuscript for American Liberators: The First Black Rebels to Beat American Slavery (2013) by J.B. Bird, this map documents the East Florida plantations destroyed by rebellious slaves, Black Seminole maroons, and Seminole Indians from Christmas Day, 1835 through May 1836.
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Slave Uprising slide ticker

Though Southern slaveholders dared not say it, the Florida uprising had mushroomed into the largest slave rebellion that the country had ever seen. By April of 1836, at least 422 field slaves had defected to the Seminoles. These plantation rebels joined 500-800 Black Seminole maroons already prominent in the Seminole ranks. Based on the number of plantation rebels alone, the rebellion was far and away the largest in U.S. history.

Amazingly, historians have failed to recognize the size of the rebellion right up to the present day. Since 1860, scholars have subscribed to the conventional wisdom that no major slave rebellions took place in the U.S. after 1831. This mistaken notion has many sources, but it mainly stems from a southern tradition that sought to bury all memory of slave rebellions. The tradition nearly erased the Black Seminole uprising from national consciousness. Indian aspects of the Florida war entered national history, as did the maroon elements to a lesser extent, but not the slave uprising. And yet evidence of its existence abounds, in military records, newspapers, plantation journals, legal petitions -- even Southern pleas for help in quelling the violence.

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Sources: The estimate of 422 plantation rebels is original to this work. For more on its derivation, see the tally of plantation slaves in the Black Seminole slave rebellion in the toolkit on the rebellion or see the original essay published on this site, "The Largest Slave Rebellion in U.S. History." The number is conservative. Historians have speculated that as many as 750-1000 plantation slaves joined the Seminoles allies. See Brown "Race" 304, Rivers 203. ©
Part 2, War: Outline  l  Images
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 Trail Narrative
 + Prologue
 + Background: 1693-1812
 + Early Years: 1812-1832
 - War: 1832-1838
+ Prelude to War
+ Revenge
spacer spacer War Erupts
"Massacre"
Withlacoochee
Key Actors
Florida
Slave Uprising
Army Response
National Mood
Distractions
Seminole Success
+ Deceit
+ Liberty or Death
 + Exile: 1838-1850
 + Freedom: 1850-1882
 + Legacy & Conclusion

Sidetrack(s)

Slave rebellion introduction: Overview of the slave revolt that the country tried to forget.

Toolkit on the rebellion: Quick facts and resources to learn more about the Black Seminole slave rebellion—list of historical sources, tally of plantation slaves in revolt, select quotations from the period, images and more.

The largest slave rebellion in U.S. history: Essay documenting the size and scope of the revolt inspired and led by the Black Seminoles, and comparing it to other major U.S. slave revolts.

The buried history of the rebellion.: Essay exploring some of the reasons how and why scholars overlooked the largest slave revolt in U.S. history.