On Sunday, September 9, 1739, a group of twenty African slaves were toiling away on a road project outside of Charles Town, South Carolina. While this may not seem out of the ordinary for the southern American colonies, there was something a bit abnormal about today: there was no white overseer present. Overseers were, for the most part, Christian and Sunday is a day of rest. This rest, however, did not extend to the “heathen” slaves who were not permitted to be baptized. On this particular Sunday, one of them, a man named Jemmy, decided enough was enough. Jemmy had been enslaved when he was captured in his native Angola in Central Africa, but had not let his horrible experience get the best of him. He spoke with his fellow laborers and convinced them that it was time to fight for their freedom.
The Stono Rebellion Marker, reverse side
Jemmy led his followers from the Stono Bridge upon which they were working to a nearby store where they stole guns and gunpowder and killed the proprietors. The Stono Slave Rebellion had begun. Over the rest of the day and into Monday, the men attacked and killed 20 – 25 more whites who had the reputation for treating their slaves poorly and the rebels’ numbers increased to about 100. One interesting incident during this period of violence involved the slave army coming upon Wallace’s Tavern. Jemmy’s men did not touch Wallace or his family, but rather killed several families that lived around the inn. The reason for this was that Wallace was good to his slaves and treated them humanely.
Authorities in Charles Town were understandably worried about this situation. A militia of about 100 men left the city under the leadership of Lt. Gov. William Bull marched out to meet the uprising. The colonial militia met up with “Captain Jemmy” and a firefight ensued. When the smoke cleared 30 of Jemmy’s men lay dead along with about 14 of the Charles Town militia. The rest of the slaves escaped into the woods. Over the next few months, many were captured and executed for their role in the Stono Rebellion. Jemmy’s fate is unknown – he may have been killed in the skirmish or he may have reached Spanish Florida and freedom. The Stono Rebellion was the bloodiest slave rebellion (for whites) in the history of Anglo-America and led directly to some strong legislation that forbade education, assembly, and other rights to slaves held in South Carolina.
On August 13, 1553, an Aragonese (in modern Spain) natural philosopher was arrested in Geneva, Switzerland. This man, Michael Servetus, was accused by religious leader (and de facto head of the Geneva Republic) John Calvin of heresy. Servetus was a leading scientific and religious thinker of his time – a period when the two were not thought of as different. In some of his early work, Servetus questioned a core doctrine of both the Catholic Church and the leading Protestant movements of his time – the eternal trinity. Servetus argued that since Jesus Christ was God-made-man, he, as the Son, could not have existed eternally. Rather, he had been part of God (the Father) originally. As such, the Trinity was flawed. This belief, which may seem a lot like hair-splitting to a modern audience, led Servetus to question the legitimacy of churches that taught this belief.
Because of this, Servetus quickly came to the attention of the Spanish Inquisition, which no one wants to have happen to them since you never know when to expect them! Servetus fled to one of the only places in Europe he thought he would be safe – the Protestant haven of Geneva. While there, Servetus eventually came to Calvin’s attention for teaching ideas that ran counter to Calvinism – Servetus was now a condemned heretic by two Churches! Before his arrest, however, Servetus was able to publish one last work that would guarantee his place his history. In his work The Restoration of Christianity, Servetus described, for the first time, the circulatory nature of blood-flow. Exactly what you were expecting from a theologian, right? Servetus was executed by burning at the stake in Geneva in October 1553 at only 29 or 30 years of age.
On June 12, 1987, Jean-Bédel Bokassa was sentenced to death by his homeland, the Central African Republic. Bokassa had ruled as President of the CAR from 1966 through 1976 when he declared himself Emperor. Bokassa was overthrown by French special forces in 1979 when they intervened in their former colony amidst reports of murder, embezzlement, and cannibalism. Bokassa was eventually pardoned for his crimes by a later president of the CAR in an gesture of national healing. He lived out his life with his (about) 17 wives and 50 children.
Featured Image. “Jean-Bédel Bokassa.” By Bokassa_with_Ceausescu.jpg: unknown, image comes from the National ArchivesDiaz_Ordaz_Nixon_San_Diego_Naval_Air_Station.jpg: White House photo by Knudsen, Robert L. (Robert LeRoy), 1929-1989, Photographer.derivative work: Makakaaaa (talk) – Bokassa_with_Ceausescu.jpgDiaz_Ordaz_Nixon_San_Diego_Naval_Air_Station.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0.