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Calling Out Liberty

The Stono Slave Rebellion and the Universal Struggle for Human Rights

Jack Shuler

Publication Year: 2009

On Sunday, September 9, 1739, twenty Kongolese slaves armed themselves by breaking into a storehouse near the Stono River south of Charleston, South Carolina. They killed twenty-three white colonists, joined forces with other slaves, and marched toward Spanish Florida. There they expected to find freedom. One report claims the rebels were overheard shouting, "Liberty!" Before the day ended, however, the rebellion was crushed, and afterwards many surviving rebels were executed. South Carolina rapidly responded with a comprehensive slave code. The Negro Act reinforced white power through laws meant to control the ability of slaves to communicate and congregate. It was an important model for many slaveholding colonies and states, and its tenets greatly inhibited African American access to the public sphere for years to come. The Stono Rebellion serves as a touchstone for Calling Out Liberty, an exploration of human rights in early America. Expanding upon historical analyses of this rebellion, Jack Shuler suggests a relationship between the Stono rebels and human rights discourse in early American literature. Though human rights scholars and policy makers usually offer the European Enlightenment as the source of contemporary ideas about human rights, this book repositions the sources of these important and often challenged American ideals.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiii

W. E. B. DU BOIS wrote The Souls of Black Folk, that seminal work in American literature, while teaching at Atlanta University and working, I’m quite sure, under difficult circumstances. I note this in order to recognize all of those who toiled before me; without the determination, intelligence, and perseverance of thousands of scholars, artists, and other ...

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pp. 3-10

...is told generation after generation is crucial. I am reminded of an event from my own childhood in South Carolina. I cannot recall the exact circumstances, but on one occasion a friend’s father told me that, in fact, African Americans had it easy during slavery. When I told my father about this conversation, he was apparently disturbed and decided this was a teach-...

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Chapter 1. Carolina’s Colonial Architecture and the Age of Rights

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pp. 11-34

The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on earth.early on the morning of September 9, 1739, as a group of slaves made its way down the Pon Pon Road in the direction of Florida. The writer, who may or may not have been James Oglethorpe, claims, “Several Negroes joined them, they calling out liberty, marched on with colours displayed, and two ...

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Chapter 2. Dissension in the Ranks: Regarding, Evaluating, and Revealing Slavery in Eighteenth–Century America

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pp. 35-65

...in the fall of 1774 Englishman Thomas Paine arrived in Philadelphia carrying with him an introductory note from Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s first media moguls. At that time, Philadelphia was the center of colonial communications, displacing Boston in no small part due to Franklin’s press. Having achieved much since his humble beginnings work-...

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Chapter 3. Claiming Rights: The Stono Rebels Strike for Liberty

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pp. 66-95

At this time there were above forty thousand negroes in the province, a fierce, hardy and strong race, whose constitutions were adapted to the strong climate, whose nerves were braced with constant labour, —Alexander Hewatt, An Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of that some natives called Chicora was during a reconnaissance mission sup-...

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Chapter 4. Negro Acts: Communication and African American Declarations of Independence

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pp. 96-115

But above all, are there no dangers attending this mode of treatment? growing community of British colonies on the east coast of North America, a violent slave rebellion would be horrible press, to say the least. American colonists were generally aware that slave rebellions were common in the West Indies but wished to ignore the potential and actual rebellions ...

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Chapter 5. The Heirs of Jemmy: Slave Rebels in Nineteenth–Century African American Fiction

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pp. 116-140

The English language befriends the grand American expression. . . . political community” (6). Such a nation “is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this alliance that makes it possible, over the past two centuries for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings” (7). Nations promote “fellow-...

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Chapter 6. Plantation Traditions: Racism and the Transformation of the Stono Narrative

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pp. 141-166

South Carolinians knew that, as a rule, slaves were treated well. They resented the lies the Abolitionists told about abusing slaves and also disliked intensely having outsiders meddle in their affairs.—Mary C. Simms Oliphant, The Simms History of South Carolina: One side reads: “Stono Phosphate Co., Charleston, SC, Established 1869.” ...

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Chapter 7. Doin’ de Right: The Persistence of the Stono Narrative

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pp. 167-183

...marsh grass about one hundred yards to the west of Highway 17, the Savan-nah Highway, a stone’s throw from where the rebellion supposedly began. It’s a warm spring day, sun shining, fiddler crabs darting away as we walk along a narrow path. Centuries ago, rice would have been growing on ei-ther side of us. Here and there you can just make out the earthen banks ...


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pp. 184-194


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pp. 195-210


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pp. 211-217

E-ISBN-13: 9781604734737
E-ISBN-10: 1604734736
Print-ISBN-13: 9781604732733
Print-ISBN-10: 1604732733

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2009