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PHOTO ESSAY

Africans in America

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Jemmy

Marker commemorating Stono Rebellion, South Carolina. Waymarking.com.

Jemmy (fl. 1730) was the name given to a slave who was probably born in the Kingdom of Kongo (now Angola) in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century and brought to the colony of South Carolina in the 1730s. Jemmy may have been exposed to Roman Catholicism and the Portuguese language, as well as contemporary military tactics, before being captured and brought to North America.

Next to nothing is known of Jemmy and his life in America before the morning of Sunday, September 9, 1739, when he led a group of slaves in a bloody revolt that has come to be called the Stono Rebellion. The incident saw Jemmy and his band of thirty to one hundred slaves cross the Stono River bridge and progress approximately ten miles south through the South Carolina countryside to the Edisto River. On their way, they stole firearms and killed a number of whites, though they spared the lives of some who were known to be kind to their slaves. Word of the rebellion spread quickly among local slaveholders, who formed a militia that met the slaves at their camp on the Edisto River on the night of September 9. The Stono Rebellion was put down in a matter of hours, but not before a number of rebel slaves escaped, possibly to freedom in Spanish Florida.

It is unknown whether Jemmy survived the skirmish. His actions did, however, provoke the authorities in South Carolina to enact a strict code policing the activity and oversight of slaves that would remain in effect until the end of the Civil War.

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