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The Gabriel Prosser Rebellion 1800

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

Gabriel Prosser and his brother, Solomon, were preparing for the farthest-reaching rebellion in United States History. Inspired by the Haitian Revolution, the Prossers organized enslaved and freed African-Americans, poor whites, and Native Americans to rebel against wealthy whites. But inclement weather and fear kept the rebellion from ever taking place.

In 1799, the Prosser brothers hatched a plan to take possession of Capitol Square in Richmond. They believed they could hold Governor James Monroe as a hostage and bargain with authorities.

After telling Solomon and another slave named Ben of his plans, the trio began recruiting other men. Women were not included in Prosser's militia.

They recruited men throughout the cities of Richmond, Petersburg, Norfolk, Albermarle, and the counties of Henrico, Caroline, and Louisa. Prosser used his skills as a blacksmith to create swords and molding bullets. Others collected weapons. The motto of the rebellion would be the same as the Haitian Revolution--"Death or Liberty." Although rumors of the upcoming rebellion were reported to Governor Monroe, they ignored it.

Prosser planned the revolt for August 30, 1800. However, a severe thunderstorm made it impossible to travel. The following day the rebellion was supposed to take place, but several enslaved African-Americans shared the plans with their owners. Landowners set up white patrols and alerted Monroe, who organized the state militia to search for rebels. Within two weeks, almost 30 enslaved African-Americans were in jail waiting to be seen in the Oyer and Terminir, a court in which people are tried without a jury but can provide testimony.

The trial lasted two months, and about 65 enslaved men were tried. They report that 30 were executed while they sold away others. They found some not guilty, and they pardoned others.

On September 14, they identified Prosser to authorities. On October 6, Prosser's trial began. Several people testified against Prosser, yet he refused to make a statement.

On October 10, they hung Prosser in the town gallows.