The New York slave revolt of 1712 was a failed attempt by a group of enslaved Africans to overthrow their masters and gain their freedom. The revolt took place in New York City, which was a major center of the slave trade at the time.
By the early 18th century, New York City had one of the largest populations of enslaved individuals among the Thirteen Colonies. Unlike other regions where large-scale plantations dominated, slavery in New York primarily revolved around domestic servitude, skilled labor, and dock work. Despite their significant contributions to the city’s growth and prosperity, enslaved Africans endured systematic oppression and discrimination.
The gradual erosion of rights for the Free Negro social group, which included both free Black individuals and slaves, further exacerbated the situation. In 1702, the first New York slave codes were enacted, implementing various restrictions and measures to control and suppress the African community. These laws mandated the carrying of passes, limited freedom of movement, discouraged marriage among slaves, and even dictated separate seating arrangements in churches.
The Revolt and its Aftermath
On the fateful night of April 6, 1712, a group of more than twenty enslaved Africans, predominantly Akan from modern day Ghana, orchestrated an uprising that would send shockwaves through the colony. Setting fire to a building on Maiden Lane near Broadway, the enslaved rebels took advantage of the ensuing chaos to launch an armed attack on the white colonists. The violent outburst resulted in the deaths of nine white individuals and injuries to six others.
In the aftermath of the revolt, the colonial authorities acted swiftly and decisively. The rebel was crushed and a total of seventy enslaved Africans were arrested and imprisoned. Tragically, six enslaved individuals chose to end their lives rather than face the impending trial and potential execution.
Out of the twenty-seven slaves who faced trial, a vast majority of twenty-one individuals were found guilty and subsequently sentenced to death. The mode of execution was grim and horrifying, as twenty were subjected to death by burning, while one unfortunate soul was hammered to death on a breaking wheel..
While the New York slave revolt of 1712 was unsuccessful in achieving its goal of overthrowing the slave system and gaining freedom for enslaved Africans, it did serve as a warning to slave owners and a reminder of the potential for resistance among the enslaved.
The aftermath of the revolt also had significant consequences for the enslaved community in New York. In the wake of the revolt, harsher laws were passed that further restricted the rights of enslaved Africans. Slaves were prohibited from gathering in groups of more than three, the possession of firearms was forbidden, and gambling was outlawed. Offenses such as property damage, rape, and conspiracy to kill warranted the death penalty, further deepening the racial divisions and injustices.
Enslaved Africans in New York continued to resist and fight for their freedom, with several more revolts taking place in the following decades. It would take many more years and a long, hard-fought struggle before slavery was finally abolished in the United States.