This book examines the Stono Rebellion, which erupted on September 9, 1739, when a group of Kongolese slaves-turned-rebels stormed a storehouse near Charles Town in the colony of South Carolina and went on to kill about twenty-three white colonists before being subdued by the militia. It first analyzes John Locke’s philosophy of natural rights and his ambiguous political and economic ties to the colony of South Carolina, and how this rights discourse emerged in the writing of Quaker abolitionists, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and others. The book also assesses the legal repercussions of the rebellion and the resonances of the Stono rebels’ calls of liberty in African American literature, along with the human rights claims made by early African American writers such as Phillis Wheatley, David Walker, and Olaudah Equiano. Moreover, it looks at the intertextual challenge to universal human rights offered by writers of the Charleston School and the competing “plantation traditions” of Angelina Grimké, Edmund Quincy, Henry Timrod, and William Gilmore Simms. Finally, the book considers the presence and persistence of the Stono narrative today.
Keywords: slaves, Stono Rebellion, South Carolina, John Locke, natural rights, liberty, African American literature, human rights, Charleston School, plantation traditions