The Space and Time of Slave Rebellions


Katharine Gerbner (University of Minnesota)




Goethe University Frankfurt (Campus Westend) and Zoom Meeting

This talk will examine the role of space and time in planning and responding to slave rebellions in the early modern Atlantic World. Most enslaved rebels chose to rise up either on Sunday or on Monday morning, during or directly after the Christian Sabbath – when many White slave owners were in church. Enslavers were aware that the time and space of Christian religious practice posed a challenge for slave governance, and they created laws that aimed to restrict Black religious space and time by criminalizing what they called “irregular assemblies”. “Irregular assemblies” could be defined as any congregation of enslaved people outside of White control, and this approach effectively criminalized Black religious gatherings. This talk will focus on the relationship between law, religion, and slavery by placing two rebellions into conversation: the Stono Rebellion (1739) in South Carolina, and Tacky’s Revolt (1760) in Jamaica. The response to these two rebellions demonstrated both overlapping strategies of governance and divergent ideas about how to regulate religious space in a slave society. 

This presentation was part of the POLY Lecture Series on “Space and Religion II”, held in the winter term of 2023 and 2024. Click here for more information.

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