Lesson Plan: Overview

Effects of the Stono Rebellion

Grade Level: 4th


Academic Standards

Standard 4-2.7 Explain how conflicts and cooperation among the Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans influenced colonial events including the French and Indian Wars, slave revolts, Native American Wars, and trade.

Social Studies Literacy Elements

P. Locate, gather, and process information from a variety of primary and secondary sources including maps

Historical Background Notes

In the early 1700s the way of life for many lowcountry slaves began to change. For many years, although still enslaved, slaves worked out in the woods harvesting lumber for naval stores or taking care of animals for their masters. They stayed out for a couple of days at a time gathering goods for the naval stores. Female slaves often worked small vegetable fields nearby. As rice cultivation became more prevalent in the 1720s, slaves were forced to give up this nomadic lifestyle to one of constant supervision and rules. They were made to rise early and work all day in the fields preparing for the harvest and oftentimes well into the night if it was needed. They were no longer allowed to go out and work at their own pace. They were under the constant supervision of an overseer. Planting, tending, and harvesting rice was a task done throughout the year. This was hard and monotonous work. These working conditions were thought to be one of the motivations behind a slave uprising in September of 1739.

Another reason behind the uprising was that Spain, who was at war with Britain, was offering slaves their freedom in return for their fighting on the Spanish side against Britain. Word quickly spread from Florida through the backwoods of Georgia and into the lowcountry of South Carolina. There are several other reasons that have been speculated, however, no one knows for sure. There is only one known eyewitness account to the Stono Rebellion. William Bull, then Governor of South Carolina, came upon the uprising. He and his accompanying party barely escaped the ravages of the rebelling slaves. He summoned help from the militia, who in turn, battled with the enslaved Africans until all were subdued, shot or killed. Several of the killed Africans were beheaded and had their heads placed on mile markers on the road. A scene similar to what was done to two of the white storekeepers they came upon.

Governor Bull wrote a letter to the Royal Council describing the events on September 9, 1739.  He requested that a charter be drawn up to help prevent any uprising from slaves in the future. Indians were even offered money for being slave catchers. Many of the lowcountry whites still feared that there were rebellious slaves out and about. Several planters around the Stono area deserted their homes and moved their wives and children in with other families for their protection. (Wood 1975, 319)

Although there are few artifacts from the Stono Rebellion, this was probably the most notable day when slave relations in the South changed forever. New laws such as the Slave Codes of 1740 were put in place to protect the white citizens, control daily movement of the slaves, as well as, protect the slaves from undue brutal treatment by whites. These laws restricted movement of the slaves, in that they had to be accompanied by a white person and/or have the explicit permission of their owner to be out and about. Some of the laws were intended to stop the slaves from congregating with each other in hopes that they would not be able to devise a plan to rebel. A few of the laws threatened to fine or imprison whites who did not follow rules, such as giving or selling alcohol to slaves. Laws were written forbidding enslaved Africans from wearing “decent” clothing for fear that they would be seen as a free man. The white government officials felt that there was a definite need for these laws. After all, the slave population far outweighed the white population in the South. If something was not done to “control” the slaves, the South would remain in total fear from the one thing that kept their economy alive: enslaved Africans. If the underlying cause of the uprising was to help in the goal for eventual freedom for the slaves, it is ironic since the slaves’ every move was now put on an even tighter rein.


Bull, William, Governor of South Carolina to the Royal Council, 5 October 1739. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

1740 South Carolina Slave Code. Acts of the South Carolina General Assembly, 1740 #670. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Secondary Sources

Edgar, Walter B. South Carolina: A History. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1998.

Wood, Peter H. Black Majority. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1975.

Other Materials

Transcription of the 1740 Slave Codes (one different paragraph for each group of two students.)

Blank sentence strips

Lesson Plans

Prior to this lesson, students were taught about the Middle Passage and the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.

1. Teacher should place students in Groups of 2 (3 if needed).Teacher will ask students to recall different non-violent ways enslaved Africans protested slavery. (breaking tools, letting animals out, burning barns, damaging crops, running away, etc.) 3-5 minutes.

2. Teacher will tell students that there were also rebellions of a violent nature. Teacher will tell the story of the Stono Rebellion (based on historical notes from above) and why it is hard to find out many things about it. Teacher will tell the students about Gov. Bull’s eyewitness account and subsequent letter. 5 minutes

3. Teacher will put up copy of Gov. Bull’s handwritten letter on the overhead/projector/Smartboard.

4. Teacher will read parts of the transcribed letter to the students, detailing the accounts of the rebellion and immediate dealings with the rebelling slaves. 10 minutes

5. Teacher will tell students that several months later new Slave Codes were put into effect to stop any thought of rebellion and to create harsher punishment for any slave trying to revolt. Teacher will put up excepts of original hand written slave codes on television monitor (if needed, use overhead). 5 minutes

6. Teacher will tell students that several months later new Slave Codes were put into effect to stop any thought of rebellion and to create harsher punishment for any slave trying to revolt. Teacher will put up excepts of original hand written slave codes on television monitor (if needed, use overhead). 5 minutes

Teacher Reflections

I really enjoyed teaching this lesson.  I realized that the students have never seen an actual slave auction.  Several students asked was it “real.” The facts that these auctions took place right here in Charleston was fascinating to the students. The students were able to make the connection once they watched Roots and were able to see an actual auction take place. Students discussed how important it was and is to hold on to one’s African Heritage. Students will view their names in a whole new light. I told the students about how some African Americans who want to reconnect with their African roots will participate in naming ceremonies. Some African Americans have also changed their names in order to identify with their African heritage. The name project was fun for the students. It resonated the importance of their names on a personal level.  Students, all of whom are African American, understood how important their names are.  The students were also able to see how the meaning of their names reflects certain personality traits.  Students enjoyed presenting their name projects in front of the class. Students seemed real proud to have a name that was uniquely theirs. When students expressed to the rest of the class what their names meant to them smiles shone on the faces of the students in the audience.  Students were also able to see the importance of selecting your name because historically, African Americans and Africans were given names by the slave master. Students thought about the scene in Roots were Kunta and Belle got married and had a daughter. Naming her after a relative in Africa gave them a sense of pride. They named her Kizzy. Kizzy was taught how special her name was and she let others know that her name had roots in Africa. I enjoyed the research for this lesson.  I really feel that it was a “hit” because the students were able to see streets in the city of Charleston that they have traveled unbeknownst to them that these may have been places where their ancestors may have been bought and sold.  I will be teaching this lesson this spring to the Second Semester African American studies class.  I feel that I will be more knowledgeable about the subject as a result of the research I conducted. John Christiansen was very helpful in assisting with tweaking the lesson. I was able to find all of the sources that he suggested that I take a look at. I went to the Charleston County Public Library and found all of the books I needed. His thoughts and suggestions were very helpful to me.

Student Assessment

Each group of two students were able to find one of the ways in which laws changed for enslaved Africans after the Stone Rebellion by being able to read and interpret the meaning of the law and rewrite the law in their own words.

Examples of Students Work

No student examples available for this lesson plan.


Lisa Bevans
Drayton Hall Elementary