The Stono Rebellion
(sometimes called Cato's Conspiracy or Cato's Rebellion) is one of the earliest known organized acts of rebellion against slavery in the Americas. On September 9, 1739, South Carolina slaves gathered at the Stono River (for which the rebellion is named) to plan an armed march for freedom.
Several factors may have convinced the slaves that a rebellion might successfully lead to freedom. A yellow fever epidemic had weakened the power of slaveholders, there was talk of a war between Britain and Spain, and accounts of slaves who had obtained their freedom by escaping to Spanish-controlled Florida gave the Carolinian slaves hope. Lastly, it has been suggested that the slaves organized their revolt to take place before September 29, when the Security Act of 1739 (which required all white males to carry arms on Sundays) would take effect. Jemmy, the leader of the revolt, was a literate slave described as Angolan, which likely meant he was from the Kongo Empire in Central Africa. He and the other slaves who led the rebellion may have realized that if they did not act to seek their freedom before September 29, they might not get another chance.
On September 9, 1739, twenty African American Carolinians led by Jemmy, an Angolan slave, met near the Stono River, twenty miles southwest of Charleston. They marched down the roadway with a banner that read "Liberty!"--they chanted the same word in unison. At the Stono Bridge they seized weapons from a store and killed the two storekeepers. They raised a flag and proceeded towards St. Augustine. On the way, they gathered more recruits, their number now close to 100. They burned the houses of slave owners. South Carolina's Lieutenant Governor, William Bull and four of his friends ran in to the group on horseback. The Lieutenant Governor fled and warned other slave-holders. They rallied a mob of plantation owners and slave-holders to seek out Jemmy and his freedom-seeking followers.
Late that afternoon, planters on horseback caught up with the group now numbering sixty to one hundred slaves. Twenty white Carolinians and forty of the slaves were killed before the rebellion was suppressed. The captured slaves were then decapitated though some also managed to escape.
That same year there was another uprising in Georgia, and the next year another took place in South Carolina, probably inspired by the Stono Rebellion - at the time, colonial officials believed as much. The Stono Rebellion resulted in a 10 year moratorium on slave imports through Charleston and enacted a harsher slave code, which banned earning money and education for slaves.
Cato Perkins was a Huntingdonian Methodist preacher. The Huntingdonian church he founded in Sierra Leone is one of the only remaining churches of that faith remaining in the world today. He was ordained in 1786 by John Marrant as a traveling preacher of the faith. Marrant chose Perkins to lead the Nova Scotia Huntingdonians in Marrant's absence.
In 1790 Perkins took on the duty of chief pastor to black Huntingdonians in Nova Scotia. He was appointed by Marrant as he left for England, and carried it out after his death.
At the time of the Sierra Leone exodus almost Cato Perkins' entire congregation went to Sierra Leone. His congregation was perhaps one quarter of the Christian population of Nova Scotia who left for Sierra Leone. Perkins continued to preach while in Sierra Leone and also was involved in organizing missions to the native African populations.
During the rebellion of the Nova Scotians against the white English leaders at Sierra Leone almost all of the Huntingdonian population supported the rebels. Perkins was nominated by the blacks to travel to England with their petition of grievances. To avoid being suspected by the Colony's administration, it seems that Perkins probably had to risk passage on a slave ship. Unfortunately for him, his petition was rejected.
Perkins died in Sierra Leone in 1805. However, even to this day a Huntingdonian society exists in Sierra Leone, evidence of the success of Perkins' missionary efforts.