Academic journal article The Historian

Whispers of Rebellion: Narrating Gabriel's Conspiracy

Academic journal article The Historian

Whispers of Rebellion: Narrating Gabriel's Conspiracy

Article excerpt

Whispers of Rebellion: Narrating Gabriel's Conspiracy. By Michael L. Nicholls. (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2012. Pp. x, 248. $42.50.)

At the outset of this study the author asks, "With the attention already paid to the plot of Gabriel and his followers, those familiar with historical accounts of the era may wonder why another history of Gabriel's Conspiracy is needed" (8). In the pages that follow, the author answers the question by presenting the most detailed, accurate, deeply researched, and interesting examination of the subject to date, including a day-by-day, at times hour-by-hour, narration of what occurred during the late summer and early fall of 1800 in and around Richmond, Virginia.

The leaders of the conspiracy included Gabriel, who was owned by Thomas Gabriel, a planter in Henrico County; Jack Bowler, who belonged to the estate of William Bowler; Sam Byrd Jr., owned by the widow Jane Clark; George Smith, owned by widow Ann Smith; Gilbert, who belonged to William Young; and Ben Woolfolk, owned by Paul Graham. Most of them lived in an area five or six miles north of the capital city along the Brook Road and the waterway known as the Brook. The author relates how they communicated with other slaves and drew others into their plan to "kill white people" (23). Although the estimates of the number of men involved ranged up to several thousand (one person believed ten thousand), the actual number was probably only a few hundred. …

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