Only slave revolt in the North American colonies

by Peter Charles Hoffer

Oxford University Press, $19.95, 173 pages

This is a history of the only slave revolt in the North American colonies, it happened in 1739, in South Carolina, and it only lasted for a few days. What it lacked in organization and planning it made up for in fear and the attitudes that whites felt for generations after this rebellion. The author, Peter Hoffer takes on the task of recreating what happened, why it happened and the meaning of Stono River. It is a difficult task, since the vast majority of surviving documents were all written by white farmers, months after the fact. Hearings were not held for a couple of months in Charles Town, and even then only whites testified. Buildings that were involved are no longer standing, roads have changed, and rivers look different. No documents have survived from the slaves’ perspective. But through all this work and the tedious reconstruction, Peter Hoffer does an excellent job recreating the events; who was most likely involved, delving into the question of whether it was a rebellion, and going over the known facts on the ground. This is a perfect example of what makes history great, being able to tell a narrative without the complete facts.

Reviewed by Kevin Winter
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