Resisting Slavery - Oral Histories

Lesson Overview

What is Oral History? - Oral history is a field of study and a method of gathering, preserving and interpreting the voices and memories of people, communities, and participants in past events. Oral history is both the oldest type of historical inquiry, predating the written word, and one of the most modern, initiated with tape recorders in the 1940s and now using 21st-century digital technologies. http://www.oralhistory.org/about/do-oral-history/

Web Guide to doing Oral History:

Stono's Rebellion, September 9, 1739 
Stono's rebellion was only one among the 250 rebellions documented in the Colonies and later in the southern United States. In 1822, a conspiracy to incite 9,000 slaves became known as Vesey's Rebellion. After Nat Turner's Rebellion in 1831, where nearly 60 white people were killed, Turner was executed.

When the slave owners caught up with the rebels from the Stono River in 1739, they engaged the 60 to 100 slaves in a battle. More than 20 white Carolinians, and nearly twice as many black Carolinians, were killed. As a result, South Carolina's lawmakers enacted a harsher slave code. This new code severely limited the privileges of slaves. They were no longer allowed to grow their own food, assemble in groups, earn their own money or learn to read. Some of these restrictions were already in place, but they had not been strictly enforced. 

Library of Congress: This Day in History September 9

Another reason behind the uprising was that Spain, who was at war with Britain, was offering slaves their freedom in return for their fighting on the Spanish side against Britain. Word quickly spread from Florida through the backwoods of Georgia and into the lowcountry of South Carolina. There are several other reasons that have been speculated, however, no one knows for sure. There is only one known eyewitness account to the Stono Rebellion. William Bull, then Governor of South Carolina, came upon the uprising. He and his accompanying party barely escaped the ravages of the rebelling slaves. He summoned help from the militia, who in turn, battled with the enslaved Africans until all were subdued, shot or killed. Several of the killed Africans were beheaded and had their heads placed on mile markers on the road. A scene similar to what was done to two of the white storekeepers the rebels killed when they looted Hutchinson’s General Store to procure weapons and ammunition. 

Governor Bull wrote a letter to the Royal Council describing the events on September 9, 1739.  He requested that a charter be drawn up to help prevent any uprising from slaves in the future. Native Americans were even offered money for being slave catchers. 


Multiple days
Lesson Type
Project Based Lesson

Essential Question

In what ways do oral histories teach us about historical events and how might historical facts be impacted by memories and personal stories? 



Other Instructional Materials or Notes:


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Lesson Created By: Cherlyn Anderson and Margaret Lorimer

Lesson Partners: Knowitall.org, S2TEM Centers SC