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Gabriel (1776–10 October 1800), slave and revolutionary, was born near Richmond, Virginia, at “Brookfield,” the Henrico County plantation of Thomas Prosser. The identity of Gabriel’s parents is lost to history, but it is known that he had two older brothers, Martin and Solomon. Most likely, Gabriel’s father was a blacksmith, the craft chosen for Gabriel and Solomon; in Virginia, the offspring of skilled bondpersons frequently inherited their parent’s profession....

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Jeremiah, Thomas (?–18 August 1775), free black pilot and fisherman, who was executed for allegedly fomenting a slave uprising, was born a slave to unknown parentage. Although his birthplace is unknown, Jeremiah lived his adult life in Charleston, South Carolina. By the middle of the eighteenth century, he had somehow secured his freedom. He married, but when and to whom are a mystery. There were no known children. At least by the early 1750s, Jeremiah worked as a harbor pilot. In 1755 a newspaper report attributed an accident to the “Carelessness of a Negro Pilot (Jerry).” But Jeremiah earned more respect for his skill and courage as a firefighter. Indeed, in 1768 he capitalized on his good reputation to establish himself as a fisherman, offering fresh fish daily to urban residents. He became a prosperous member of the Charleston community and perhaps one of the richest free blacks in prerevolutionary North America....

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Turner, Nat (02 October 1800–11 November 1831), slave leader, was born in Southampton County, Virginia, the son of Nancy, an African-born slave, and her husband (name unknown), also a slave and perhaps African-born, both of whom belonged to Benjamin Turner. Though Nat Turner changed owners a number of times, he did not experience the disruption of being shipped south to Georgia or Mississippi. He spent his entire life in Southampton County; nonetheless, as a consequence of slavery, he experienced separation from all the people who mattered most to him. Separated while very young from his father, who reportedly escaped to the North, Nat was raised by his mother and paternal grandmother. In 1809 Benjamin Turner loaned Nat and his mother, along with some other slaves, to work his son Samuel Turner’s land; the next year Benjamin died, and Samuel inherited both mother and son. Nat was put to work as a field hand at the age of twelve. By 1822 he had married a slave named Cherry, but that year he was separated from his wife and his mother when, after the death of Samuel Turner, each was sold to a different owner. Nat Turner became the property of Thomas Moore, but Moore died in 1828. Turner then became the legal property of Thomas Moore’s nine-year-old son Putnam Moore, whose mother married Joseph Travis in 1829, and thus Joseph Travis gained control of Nat Turner, who continued to be the property of the child Putnam Moore....

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Vesey, Denmark (1767?–02 July 1822), slave insurrectionist, was born possibly in Africa. His family roots and early childhood are unknown. As a fourteen-year-old in a cargo of 390 slaves bound for St. Domingue (Haiti), his engaging appearance somehow caught Captain Joseph Vesey’s eye. Sold on arrival to a French planter, Denmark remained on that sugar- and cocoa-producing colony only a few months before being returned as “unsound and subject to epileptic fits.” Afterward, Captain Vesey kept the young slave for himself and in 1783 adopted Charleston, South Carolina, as a permanent home....