Throughout the history of the United States our
nation has been shaped through revolution. The basis of our
nation was the uprising which freed us from Britain. The first
major rebellions of our nation were those of slavery. Slavery was
present throughout our history and the end of it was a sequence
of revolutions. First came the slave revolts with their many
brilliant revolutionaries. Then came the mutiny of the South
against the United States. These revolts started a new type of
revolutionary who focused on the individual rights of the
citizens of our country. These slavery rebellions were the basis
for the civil rights movements since. These civil rights
movements include the women's rights movements, race and
prejudice riots, and sit-ins and revolts that continue to present
day. Slavery has shaped our nation through the revolutions that
it inspired and the changes in our country that has made it a
better place for all.
Revolts Through Time 1966-Division Street
1831-Nat Turner’s 1955-Montgomery Bus 1965- Black Riots
1739-Stono Rebellion Slave Rebellion Boycott Panther Party 1966-Days of Rage
1829- Women’s Rights 1954- Brown vs. 1965-Selma to 1965-Watts 1973-
Movement Board of Montgomery 1970-
Education Marches Lavender Knee Incident
1896-Plessy vs. 1960- Greensboro
Identified as the one of the first slave revolts, this revolt started in South Carolina on
the banks of the Stono River. The slaves were inspire by the events of the time. The slaveholders
had been weakened by yellow fever and there was talk of a war between Spain and Britain. Also
rumors spread of slaves who had escaped to Spanish-controlled territory and lived as free citizens.
The slaves gathered at the river and marched to Charleston, chanting “Liberty” in unison.
Just after crossing the Stono River Bridge , they stopped at a store, where they
seized ammunition and weapons and killed the two store keepers. They proceeded south , burning
seven plantations and killing twenty whites. Slaveholders gathered and massacred the rebels the
next day. Forty-four slaves were killed in the initial attack, but the rest were decapitated. The heads
were then put onto stakes and placed on the trail that the rebellion had followed as a warning to
This was the first real slave revolt. It laid the foundation for later
revolts and inspired other slaves to take up arms.
After the slave revolts of the 1700s, a change
came upon revolution. Revolution was no longer just simply
for the upheaval of government, but instead for the rights of
the individual. When African-Americans were given
citizenship and the right to vote, other social groups began to
question the absence of their power. One group were
woman. While woman were considered citizens, they still
lacked control of themselves and were mostly tied to their
male partners. The first wave of the movement was to get the
right to vote. Before that, the most a woman could do to
affect the government was to try and get her husband to vote
a certain way. Women staged marches, lectures, and wrote
books to spread the cause. In the end suffrage was won by
peaceful and intellectual methods.
The Women’s Rights Movement was the first revolution to focus on
the rights of the individual after the revolts of slavery.
Nat Turner was born and raised in area with a majority of black residents. From a young age he was
seen as smart and was said to have received visions. Turner interpreted these visions as messages from God. He
was a great leader and told all of the other slaves of his messages. He was convinced that he was destined for
great purposes. The other slaves called him the Prophet. One day, as Turner was working in the field, he received a
vision that told him to defeat the serpent (the slave owners). From then on he began planning his rebellion. He
used atmospheric conditions as signs for when the rebellion should start.
In 1831, there was a solar eclipse, which Turner saw as a Black man’s hand reaching over the sun and a
sign to start the revolution. Turner and other slaves went house to house, freeing slaves and killing every white
person they met. Overall 60 white men, women, and children were killed. Slave owners gathered and stopped the
rebellion with much bloodshed. Nat Turner was executed for starting the rebellion. His lawyer released a book of
what he had said while waiting for the trial called The Confessions of Nat Turner. The rebellion was the largest slave
revolt and the largest methodical slaughter of whites. It polarized slave owners and moderates in the South and was
one of the biggest blows to slave owners before the Civil War. Home
Nat Turner was an amazing revolutionary who brought his race together in the presence of injustice.
Homer Plessy was jailed for sitting in a “white” railroad car. Plessy was only
one-eighth black and seven-eights white, but in Louisiana law he was still seen as black.
Plessy argued that the Separate Car Act, which separated whites from other ethnic
groups on railroads, as unconstitutional and that it violated the Thirteenth and
Fourteenth Amendments. The Judge was John Ferguson, who had previously deemed the
Act unconstitutional for trains that went through multiple states. However, Plessy was
still found guilty by Ferguson, because the railway was in Louisiana and therefore should
follow Louisiana law. He appealed to the Supreme Court which also found him guilty. The
only justice who found was for Plessy was Justice John Harlan. He said,
“Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes
among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law...In my
opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious
as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott case...The present decision, it
may well be apprehended, will not only stimulate aggressions, more or less brutal and
irritating, upon the admitted rights of colored citizens, but will encourage the belief
that it is possible, by means of state enactments, to defeat the beneficent purposes
which the people of the United States had in view when they adopted the recent
amendments of the Constitution."
While he was eventually proven right, “the separate but equal” laws still held
until the case Brown v. Board of Education.
Plessy vs. Ferguson established a precedent that aided discrimination even
after African Americans were supposed to be equal citizens.
A black third-grader had to walk
one mile to school across railroad
switchyards to go to her public school when a
white public school was seven blocks away.
This was because of the separate but equal
laws that were started with Plessy vs.
Ferguson. When the principal of the white
school refused to let her in, her father, Oliver
Brown took the case to the NAACP. In the
trial Brown argued that education could not
be equal under segregation, because
removing a race from a school was inherently
unequal. Also they argued that black schools
were far inferior to white schools in teaching
and materials. The judges agreed with
Brown, but because of the court case of
Plessy v. Ferguson had to rule against him.
The case was taken to the supreme
court, where the court ruled in favor of the
plaintiff and required all public schools to be
Brown vs. Board of Education was the first step in stopping the intolerance and
unfairness which had been present since Plessy vs. Ferguson and before.
In Montgomery, Alabama 42,000 blacks boycotted the city
buses for a year. They were protesting the segregation of seating and “[…] a full scale racial
the arrest of Rosa Parks. The segregation included a barrier, going to the war."
front of the bus to pay and then having to re-board in the back, and
drivers pulling away before they could enter the bus. Originally the
Women’s Political Council planned a one day boycott against the trial of
Rosa Parks. E.D. Nixon, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ralph Abernathy
also helped endorse and plan the event.
After the first day, the Montgomery
Improvement Association was formed to continue the
boycott until they won their case. The Association kept on
being refused, but they remained peaceful and nonviolent
even when they were harassed and attacked. Bombs were
thrown into protesters homes, which the MIA responded to
by launching a federal suit against the segregation. The
federal court ruled against the MIA, who then appealed to
the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the
The Montgomery Bus Boycotts set in motion plaintiff and made all public transportation become
the civil rights revolutions which would use desegregated. This went farther than the simple issue of
nonviolence and determination to obtain buses, this case put civil rights into the national
consciousness and put Martin Luther King into the public
‘With their very bodies they
obstructed the wheels of
Four black students were sitting at a
segregated lunch counter at a North Carolina
Woolworth. The white customers were allowed to sit
on stools, but the African American customers had to
stand. The four students: Ezell A. Blair, David
Richmond, Joseph McNeil, and Franklin McCain simply
sat at a white counter. They were refused service, but
continued to sit and came back the next day. The
second day 28 students came, the next 300, and finally
1000 protesters sat at the Woolworth protesting the
segregation. This Sparked Civil rights sit-ins and
boycotts across the country. Finally, the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 mandated desegregation in public
For more detailed information and a great site click here.
The Greensboro Sit-Ins thoroughly brought the issue of the existing
injustice and intolerance that existed under the “separate but equal”
system to the public view.
The Selma to Montgomery Marches consisted of three
marches, which was the political and emotional peak of the Civil Rights
Movement. Although in Dallas County 57 percent of its population was
black, only one percent of them were registered to vote. Amelia
Boynton, Reverend L.L. Anderson, J. L. Chestnut, Marie Foster, and the DCVL
tried to help register African American residents, but state and local officials
wouldn’t allow it. Bernard Lafayette, a registration organizer, was nearly beaten
to death by opposing whites. The activists continued to discuss the topics and
Dr. King and SCLC joined the movement. Dr. King addressed a
meeting in Brown Chapel in defiance of an injunction filed to stop meetings of
more than two people who discussed voter registration. The SCLC expanded
voter registration drives and protests. On March 7, 600 marchers headed east
out of Selma. Their goal was to reach Montgomery and talk to Governor
Wallace about the problem. The Group only made it six blocks, where Wallace
ordered the police to stop it at all costs. This event was named ”Bloody Sunday”
after police brutality injured many of the peaceful marchers. The whole event "We have gained a new sense of
was seen across America in the media and increased the support for the cause.
The second march was on March 9 when 2,500 went to the border
dignity and destiny. We have
of the town. The leaders attempted to get a court order to stop police discovered a new and powerful
interference, but instead the court ordered a restraining order against the weapon—nonviolent resistance”
march until the event could be looked into. On the third march the judge ruled
in favor of the Marchers and they completed their trek to Montgomery. Within Home
five months of the march the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was put in motion.
The Marches established the way to change was through peaceful revolt.
The Black Panther Party was an
association to promote Black Power and self-defense
through social agitation. The Party was founded in
Oakland, California by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale
in 1966. They started to protect black neighborhoods
against police brutality and prejudice. In 1967, the
party reached 5,000 members and had spread across
the country. They created the ten-point program for
“Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice
and Peace.” The party began to focus more on
socialism and less on black nationalism. They were
seen as violent and this led to a decline in
membership and eventually the total collapse of the
party in the 1970’s.
The Black Panther Party was a key group in the fight against racism and other Home
forms of bigotry.
The Watts Riot was the first racial-fuelled rebellion of the 1960’s. It began with the arrest of a
21 year old African American who was pulled over by a policeman. A crowd formed which taunted the
policeman and who subsequently called in reinforcements. Apparently the officer began to beat the
crowd and news spread across the South Central Neighborhood, which erupted in violence. The
crowd began to loot and burn local stores . The Riot lasted for five days, where 34 people died, 1000
were injured, and 200 million dollars in damage was done. Afterwards the protestors showed that
they had only harmed white stores and left all other stores untouched. This was the first major lesson
to the American public of the volatility of the segregated inner city neighborhoods.
The Watts Riot demonstrated the extreme measures to which the Home
oppressed and exploited will go to incite change
The Division Street Riots refer
to the riots of civil unrest in Chicago
from June 12 to June 14. It is known as
the first Puerto Rican Rebellion and
was a response to the shooting of a
young Puerto Rican by police. The
underlying cause was the national
urban crisis of the time and ethnic
conflicts in the city. The riots drew the
public’s attention to the poor and the
strained relations between the Puerto
Ricans and the police. Eventually the
community concerns were addressed
The Division Street Riots illustrated to the rest of America the
problems with injustice and poverty which afflict different ethnic
"The Elections Don't Mean Shit—Vote Where
the Power Is—Our Power Is In The Street”
The Days of Rage were a series of events in 1969 organized by a group called the
Weathermen. They were a militant offshoot of another group called Students for a Democratic
Society. The Weathermen wanted to take a national action against the war. John Jacobs was their
leader and he wanted to “turn the imperialists’ war into a civil war.” The riots were highly violent and
chaotic and were seen by some as pointless except for the media attention they received. The riots
were so bad that the Black Panther Party actively denounced the organization. Home
The Days of Rage demonstrated how far a revolutionary group would go to change a country in which
the government did not listen to the people. This group exceeded the needs of the situation but the idea
itself was not flawed.
The term Lavender Menace was coined by the National Organization for Women in 1969 to refer to
lesbians in women’s rights. Later a feminist gay rights group took it as their name. Many key members
included Rita Mae Brown, Karla Jay, Lois Hart, and Barbara Lee. One of their major events was when they
took over the stage at the Second Congress to Unite Women. The members stormed the stage and turned
the discussion to lesbian issues and heterosexism. They educated feminists on sexism, homophobia, and
The Lavender Menace was an important group in establishing that race and gender Home
were not the only aspects of a person that were discriminated against.
The American Indian Movement
took over the town of Wounded
Knee, South Dakota in 1973. they
controlled the town for 71 days while the
town was cordoned off by US marshals.
The Oglala Lakota of Pine Ridge Indian
Reservation seized the town as an act
against the Oglala chairman in office. It
was the longest civil discord in the
history of the Marshals Service. The
American Indian Movement claims that
during the siege members were
beaten, harassed, and murdered. It also
calls it a reign of terror that was started
by the officials present and not the
movement. To this day no consensus has
been reached and the event simply
stands out as an act of the movement.
Wounded Knee was the desperate attempt of a group that had been
oppressed for hundreds of years to stop some of the injustice.
During the 1990’s a series of
riots, also called Rodney King
riots, were held all over Los
Angeles. It started after a court trial
in which four policemen were
acquitted of beating an African
American motorist. The beating
had been videotaped, but the jury
still came to the decision of not
guilty. Thousands rioted in Los
Angeles for six days straight.
Looting, assault, arson, and murder
all occurred during the riots.
Property damage ran up to one
billion dollars and 53 people died.
Federal troops and the National
Guard had to be called in to stop
the riots. Six months later the
policemen were retried and two
were found guilty. There were no
The Los Angeles Riots demonstrated the
chaotic and violent revolts that result from
years of injustice and intolerance.