Madison Washington led the most successful slave revolt in U.S. history.
Madison Washington was a free man living in Canada. He had escaped the United States and found freedom. At some point, he returned to Virginia to rescue his wife. Washington was re-captured. That’s how he ended up aboard the ship, Creole.
In 1841, 135 slaves were to be transported from Virginia to New Orleans to be sold at auction. The slaves were kept in a hold at the front of the ship. One crewman opened the grate and Washington made his move. He overpowered the crewmember and led eighteen other slaves against their captors.
After the fighting, one slave trader and one slave were dead. Some of the slaves on board wanted to kill every white person on the ship. Madison Washington stopped them from murdering anyone. The slaves demanded to be taken to the British-controlled Bahamas. Two days after the revolt, Creole anchored outside of Nassau. The Bahamians held the ship for four days before allowing the slaves to set foot in the Bahamas. Once they reached British territory, they were instantly free men and women.
The eighteen remaining rebels were detained by British authorities. Because they were free men not slaves in the eyes of the British, they were within their rights to use force to escape illegal slavery. Madison Washington and the seventeen others were freed to go wherever they pleased.
President John Tyler and Secretary of State Daniel Webster demanded the return of the freed slaves. The British ignored them.
The Creole revolt caused a firestorm of debate in the United States about the rights of slaves and slave owners in foreign countries.
Frederick Douglass wrote a fictionalized account of Madison Washington’s life in the novel The Heroic Slave.
Why he should be remembered: Because of Madison Washington’s actions, 128 slaves were freed. The Creole revolt is considered the most successful slave revolt in history. That deserves recognition.
28 Black People You Probably Don’t Know About (But You Should):
14) Hans Massaquoi
15) Robert Robinson
16) Jourdon Anderson
18) Diane Nash
Keep coming back for another article each day of Black History Month.