Gabriel Prosser was born into slavery in 1775, at the Brookfield, a tobacco plantation in Henrico County, Virginia. Prosser had two brothers, Solomon and Martin. Prosser family where owned by Thomas Prosser. Prosser was a trained blacksmith, which gave him access to life beyond the plantation. At the time of the insurrection Prosser was twenty-four years old, literate, dark skinned, six feet two inches tall, had two front teeth missing, and two or three scars on his head.

Prosser plan the revolt during the spring and summer of 1800. With the help of his two brothers and other slaves including Jack Bowler and George Smith, Prosser devised a plan to seize control of Richmond, Virginia by killing all of the whites, and then establishing a Kingdom of Virginia with himself as monarch. Prosser planned to spare the French, the Methodists, the Quakers, and the poor. Months prior to the insurrection Prosser recruited hundreds of supporters and organized them into military units. On the night August 30, 1800 Prosser intend to lead slaves into Richmond, but the rebellion was postponed because of rain. However, earlier in the day two slaves who wanted to protect their master betrayed the plot to their owner, Mosby Sheppard. Sheppard warned Virginia’s Governor, James Monroe, who called in the state militia. Realizing their plan had been discovered, Prosser and many of his followers dispersed into the county side. About 35 rebels were captured and executed, but Prosser escape to Norfolk, Virginia. The Government put a $300 reward on his head. Prosser was spotted and betrayed by other slaves, who wanted to claim the reward, but the slave that betrayed Prosser did not received the full reward.

Prosser was returned to Richmond and tried for his role in the unsuccessful insurrection. The courts questioned Prosser, but he did not submit. Prosser along with his two brothers and 23 other slaves, was found guilty on October 6, 1800 and executed by hanging the next day.

In reaction, Virginia and other states legislature passed restrictions on slaves as well free blacks, prohibiting the education, assembly, and hiring out of slaves, to restrict their chances to learn and to plan similar rebellions.


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