Until recently the history of the Transatlantic Slave Trade has largely ignored the role of the African people who resisted enslavement and fought to end slavery in various ways. The African freedom movement was active from the beginning of chattel slavery.
Recent research has revealed the extent of this resistance, which took many forms, some individual, some collective. They resisted capture and imprisonment, attacked slave ships from the shore and engaged in shipboard revolts, fighting to free themselves and others. Sometimes pregnant women preferred abortion to bringing a child into slavery. On the plantations, resistance reduced profitability. Enslaved Africans tried to slow down the pace of work through pretending illness or breaking tools and they ran away whenever possible, escaping to South America, England or North America. Some escaped Africans, like the Maroons in Jamaica, formed guerrilla bands which attacked plantations.
No matter what punishments were carried out, or how many harsh laws were passed to control them, enslaved Africans still rebelled. Many former slaves also worked with the abolitionists in Britain and elsewhere; you can read some of their stories in the abolitionists section. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the slave revolts grew bigger. Many enslaved people who rebelled were killed but, despite this, resistance to slavery continued in Africa, aboard the slave ships and in the Caribbean and Americas. They made it clear that if they were not set free, they would soon free themselves.
In this section:
You can find details of four rebellions as well as facts and figures about slave resistance on board the ships and on the plantations.