Slavery and Panic

Program Description:
At the start of the American Revolutionary War, patriot leaders and loyalist officials in Virginia, South Carolina, and North Carolina vied for the support of white settlers in societies that exploited large numbers of enslaved blacks. When white leaders discovered several slave rebellion conspiracies in the spring and summer of 1775, each side responded with political maneuvers that assumed wide familiarity with established ideas about how slaves formed conspiracies. Rather than join other scholars in emphasizing that these threats from enslaved blacks forced leading whites to take revolutionary action, I focus on patriot leaders' eagerness to seize on the apparent threat, their dexterity in manipulating it for partisan ends, and their stunning fluency when discussing the prospect of insurrection.