Saturday, August 24, 2013

Untold Rebellion of Mingoe in Virginia


A slave named Mingoe, who had fled his master in Middlesex County, Virginia, gathered a large number of followers and ravaged plantations, particularly in Rappahannock County. These Negroes not only took cattle and hogs, but “two guns, a Carbyne & other things.” What became of this incident of rebellion in not recorded. [MS. Order Book, Middlesex County, 1680-1694, pp. 526-27.]

Mingoe Rebellion Background:
According to several historians, John Nickson's co-conspirators almost certainly included the slaves Lawrence and Mingoe, as well as a white servant named Richard Wilkins. In 1689 these men, perhaps inspired by Nickson's earlier plans, escaped from Wormeley's plantation and, having acquired some followers from the neighborhood, spent the next two years raiding the esta...tes of Rappahannock County and stealing livestock from the local planters. In 1691 the depredations of these three men were the source of far greater concern, as they stole several firearms, encouraging local officials to increase their efforts to capture these outlaws. All three were tried in the courts of Middlesex County: Mingoe was sentenced to thirty-nine lashes, while Wilkins's term of indenture was extended by five years. Because Lawrence was captured while in possession of a gun, he was charged as a felon and held in the county jail until he could receive his sentence from Virginia's General Court; the outcome of his case is not known, but, according to the historian Anthony S. Parent Jr., it is probable that, as a slave found with a gun, he was hanged.

Because Nickson and his followers' plans were uncovered before they could be set in motion, it could be argued that the conspiracy was of little historical importance; however, it is instructive to place Nickson's plot within the wider picture of the racial politics of late seventeenth-century Virginia. Throughout the previous fifty years, cooperation was common between white servants and black slaves, as legal definitions of slavery and servitude were vague and inconsistent, and in many instances the two groups were moved to make common cause against the colony's elite, particularly their own masters. Following Bacon's Rebellion (1676–1677), though, colonial legal codes were adjusted in order to draw obvious distinctions between laborers of European descent and those of African heritage, thus to a large extent encouraging poor whites to identify themselves more with planters than with nonwhites of their own class. Although servants and slaves continued to work together as plantation laborers until well into the eighteenth century, racial identity soon came to outrank class solidarity, and instances of interracial labor resistance became less and less common. John Nickson's conspiracy may well have been the last true interracial conspiracy in the history of colonial Virginia.

Time Line
1687 - John Nickson is arrested by Middlesex County authorities and charged with leading a conspiracy of servants and slaves on Ralph Wormeley II's plantation. The court decision is recorded in the Middlesex County Order Book, but his fate remains unknown.
1689 - Two slaves, Mingoe and Lawrence, and a servant, Richard Wilkins, escape from Ralph Wormeley II's estate in Middlesex County. They gather followers and for two years raid plantations in Rappahannock County, stealing livestock and other goods.
1691 - Two slaves, Mingoe and Lawrence, and a servant, Richard Wilkins, are captured and tried in the Middlesex County court for the theft of firearms.
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