For the most part slaves did not confront their masters up front but rebelled in hidden ways. Were the men and women who confronted their masters with violence so desperate that they preferred death to living in slavery?
The most spectacular, and perhaps best-known, forms of resistance were organized, armed rebellions. The group was headed to Florida but only made it about ten miles because once they went to rest, the militia found them and killed forty four of them and twenty one whites lost their lives as well.
Or were they cleverly manipulating the contradictions inherent to the institution? In addition, they lived under harsh living conditions, and this led to their resistance against these harsh conditions. Antebellum slavery was different than past forms of American slavery, because slaves had gained a taste of the ideas that were spread from the American Revolution.
Some slave masters recognized the potential dangers in these cultural expressions and attempted to curb their practices.
By the nineteenth century, the North was a particularly attractive destination for acculturated, American-born slaves. Slaves commandeered weapons, burned and looted properties, and even killed their masters and other whites, but whites were quick to exact a brutal revenge.
Ever since slaves arrived in the Chesapeake in the early seventeenth century, slaves resisted their enslavement just as anyone else would, in order to claim some measure of freedom against an institution that defined people as property.
Some students likely will not buy the argument that everyday forms of resistance reinforced the institution. In his Narrative, Olaudah Equiano mentions some of the defensive measures that were taken in his own village.