Thread: Because much of our history has been purposely hidden, we are taught stories like the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere. But stories of black rebellion and freedom fighters aren't told unless white people win in the end.
For instance, we know the story of Nat Turner and Denmark Vessey, but we don't learn about the black South Carolinian who led successful uprisings, freed slaves, fought a whole army and had white slaveowners terrified for years.
This is the story of a bad motherfucker named Joe
Most of the stories about Africans who were kidnapped and brought to America involve three kinds of black people:
1. The enslaved Africans
2. Africans who bought their freedom or were freed by whites;.
3. Enslaved Africans who escaped north.
Even the tales about slave uprisings mainly consist of Africans on plantations who convinced their fellow bondsmen to rise up against their masters. In those stories, the revolts either fail or the slaves run away and try to make it to the north.
But slavery in America started in 1619 and what we call the "north" really wasn't free territory until 1820. So where did black people run to before then?
Well, the answer is simple:
These slaves lived free and sometimes thrived in places where white people were afraid to go.
We have to remember that colonizers generally weren't known for their bravery. One of the reasons white people were so brutal to black people back then was because they feared what would happen if we ever rose up, so their brutality was used as an "example."
They also wanted black people to believe that freedom from slavery was unthinkable, so they would keep stories about runaways and slave rebellions quiet. They wouldn't even tell their neighbors because it made them look weak.
Despite what history books and people who love the Confederacy will tell you, colonizers and slaveowners weren't known for their bravery.
In fact, Georgia wouldn't even exist to this day if it hadn't been for a group of black soldiers from Haiti who helped save the Savannah
Savannah built a monument in the city square that honors these black soldiers' efforts during the Seige of Savannah and there is an incredible untold story about why they included a little drummer boy along with the soldiers.
But that is a story for another time.
That regiment is the largest group of black soldiers who fought for American colonies during the Revolution. But quite a few black soldiers fought with the British because (here is another interesting fact we aren't taught) the Revolutionary war was, in part, about slavery
See, slaveowners were really afraid that Great Britain was going to free the enslaved people in the colonies—if only to keep a tab on people like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who were always starting shit talmbout "Liberty and Justice for all".
There was a rumor going around that Charlotte, the wife of King George III was part black (she was) and that George was going crazy (he was). A lot of people thought it was only a matter of time before slavery was outlawed in the colonies.
So a group of rich white boys got together and decided they would rather overthrow the government than allow black people to be free. I know this sounds like I'm talking about the Civil War, but there's a whole-ass history book about this called "The Counter-Revolution of 1776"
Now you have to remember that the dudes we call "Founding Fathers" were slave owners. So much for "liberty and justice for all."
(That "all men are created equal" hit different when you learn that 41 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence owned slaves, don't it?)
So when America essentially "seceded" from Great Britain, a LOT of black people fought for the British side. Some enslaved Africans left their plantations to fight with the redcoats. Some just ran away when the plantation owners went to fight.
SPOILER ALERT: The British lost.
Now a LOT of these black soldiers left for Britain and other places after the war. But some couldn't go because they hadn't formally enlisted in the British army. They basically told the Brits:
"Fuck it, I'll fight. It can't be worse than this slavery bullshit."
So after the war, these black people were stuck in America with white people they had just tried to kill. They really didn't have a lot because—and I'm not sure you know this—slaves don't earn a whole lot in salary.
And the benefits were TERRIBLE!
So where could they go? Remember there wasn't really freedom in the North yet. Maybe they could have gone back and said: "Massa, I think we should move past that whole thing where I tried to kill you," but I'm not sure it would've worked:
Now all across America, there were these places where black people had run away from slaveowners and built entire communities. Most of the time, these were places that were very inhospitable.
For instance, In Alabama, a man named Hal ran away and built a community by a lake that was referred to as "Hal's Kingdom." Hal was said to be a huge, strapping man who no one wanted to fight. Runaways joined him and they lived in relative peace for years.
Perhaps the most famous of these places is an area on the border of Virginia and NC called the Great Dismal Swamp. Researchers and archaeologists still don't' know how many formerly enslaved Africans lived there. They know it was hundreds but new research says it may be 1000s
Historians now call these communities "maroons" but back then, they were just called "the woods" or "outlands." One enslaver warned a slavemaster to keep an eye out because some Africans will "to the woods." But, he said, there are some Africans that "can't nobody own."
Fun fact: In Maryland, Va and NC, the slaves who, for some reason, ran away to freedom were called: "Outlandish"
Remember that the people who lived in these communities didn't have a lot. But because they fought in the War, a lot of them were armed and dangerous. Even worse, these outlandish free blacks would raid plantations and free other enslaved Africans.
Shit was getting outta hand!
In 1786, South Carolina's militia tried to attack a maroon island near Charleston on the Savannah river after people began complaining to the Governor.
SC got their ass kicked.
A newspaper said the island-dwellers were well-trained in military tactics and had posted sentries
So the governor funded a whole army to go after the maroons. The army got their asses kicked again, but they eventually dispersed the community even though the maroons only lost 10 men....
In six months the Africans built that shit back, this time with 21 houses and a 4-ft. wall
The maroons kept raiding plantation and getting enslaved Africans to leave for years, but the plantation owners kept it quiet, partly because they really couldn't do a damn thing about it. Also, it made them look weak and gave their slaves hope.
Which leads us to this bad motherfucker named Joe.
From 1821-1823, a legendary man named Joe terrified people in the lower part of SC. He killed white people. He stole their stuff. And he wasn't scared of a damn thing.
Now Joe was a charismatic, smart motherfucker. Historians know he escaped from a SC plantation owned by a Mr. Caroll near Columbia but they don't know when.
The next time Joe shows up is 140 miles away. By then he had assembled a band of bandits that contained at least 17
Records show that one man walked 200 miles to join Joe's group. Some were women. Others sent their children with Joe because he was REALLY free.
Joe would lead what whites called "raids," basically he stole stuff from the bastards who kidnapped black people and stole their labor
On May 21, 1821, Joe was killing cattle on George Ford's plantation. Ford owned 49 Africans and one of them dropped a dime on Joe. (I think his name was Tekaslave 6ix9ine)
But someone told Joe:
"Aye man, the white people are coming! Somebody snitched! You better run!"
So when Ford came, Joe and his boys were waiting. George's boys ran like bitches but Joe killed Ford.
Now I don't know if you knew this, but in 1821, SC didn't look very kindly on black people killing white people.
Spoiler alert: They also wouldn't like it in 1921, or 2019.
So of course, this word started to spread. One of Joe's men had been captured and he told them that Joe did it.
White people were up in arms but black people were in awe!
Joe's legend started to grow because he couldn't be caught. Every time someone thought they had him captured, he would get away.
One of the reasons why was because, as Joe was freeing enslaved Africans, telling them where to run, etc. they would help him out with intel
Joe disappeared into "the woods" so much that people—both black and white—named him "Forest"
The governor of SC put a bounty on Joe's head. But no one could capture him.
Remember, this all started in early 1821.
They didn't catch Joe in 1821
They didn't catch Joe in 1822
By 1823, Joe was a legend. Black people were looking out. Others were joining him. And some would just tell white people they spotted Joe just to throw them off the scent.
Now the white people were scared AF.
The stories of Joe was growing too big. Part of this wasn't just the rumors started by enslaved Africans who were looking out, part of it was because Joe was very adept and had curated an information network
Part of the reason his legend grew was also because he embarrassed a lot of white people. Instead of admitting that he outsmarted Joe, they would say he knew some kind of magic and had extra long legs that allowed him to cover long distances very fast.
And then there was this one enslaved woman who was the prized possession of a doctor from Louisiana. She ended up falling in love with Joe. But, probably to save face, the doctor told everyone the woman was being held against her will.
So this slavemaster vowed to "free" this woman from Joe. Joe went out for a "raid" one day and came back to find the woman gone. No, the Doctor hadn't discovered Joe's hideout... Of course, everyone told Joe what the real deal was:
A driver for the doctor, who people said was "skinfolk but not kinfolk" had "set the woman free.
And by "people," I mean the woman. Because as soon as this woman was free, she went RIGHT BACK to Joe and stayed with him to his last day.
Well, you know a nigga like Joe couldn't let this shit slide. How could he let this bitch-ass dude come up in the camp and pull something like this off? Everyone told whim who the guy was and Joe vowed to kill him.
Everyone said: "Don't do it, Forest. That driver belongs to the former governor and you already have a price on your head. You gotta let it go!"
But Joe wasn't having it.
So on August 29, 1823 over 2 years after he killed George Ford, Joe did the wildest shit ever:
Forest Joe walked on the plantation of former Governor James Burchill Richardson. And in front of the enslaved people, the plantation overseer and everyone on the plantation, Forest shot the driver dead. And then, just for good measure, he turned and aimed at the overseer.
Of course, the overseer was hauling ass. But this increased Joe's legend in an incredible way, not only because Joe had killed someone again, but because the other enslaved people HATED that driver because they said he always snitched.
But there was another reason:
Joe was known for his midnight raids and eluding his hunters under the cover of darkness, but he did all of this in broad daylight!
The event also confirmed part of Forest's magic.
For years, people had sworn that they had shot and wounded Joe but he never seemed hurt.
Well it turns out, that unlike most maroons and enslaved Africans, Joe's clothes weren't white, they were different shades of brown. He had found a way to make himself some camouflage clothes.
But that wasn't the most incredible part of Forest's gear.
He had also fashioned himself an upper garment out of some material that it is said: "through which no bullet would pass". Some people speculate that it was made out of lead because he stole a lot of lead that they thought he was using to make ammo.
No one knows what it was made of but Joe, in 1821, had created a bulletproof vest!
Anyway, when Joe started killing people in broad daylight, the shit hit the fan.
You gotta remember, by this time, there were actually MORE black people in SC than white people.
Don't forget that there was this other slave uprising going on at the same time in Charleston by a guy named Denmark Vessey so white people were scared AF.
By September 1823, Forest Joe was a bigger story in SC than Denmark Vessey, Donald Trump and Kanye's gospel album combined
So the people in the area decided to raise some money and pay some black people to snitch on Joe. No one would tell until October, when an enslaved man named Royal decided to take the money and dry snitch on Forest.
Royal led a militia to Joe and—true to Joe's word—he was not taken alive. He was killed along with two other men.
For added measure, those bastards cut off Joe's head and put it on a stake at the mouth of the river "as a warning to viscious slaves."
The SC militia raided Joe's camps and killed a lot of people. They even shot a three-year-old. It would be three years before they disbanded all of Joe's crew...They think.
Shortly after Joe's death, SC's legislature essentially made it illegal for black people to be free in SC. They outlawed "manumission"— the right of a slaveowner to set someone free. They banned free black people from entering the state.
They imposed a tax of $50 per year on any free person in SC (About $1220 in today's money). Any black person who couldn't pay could possibly be re-enslaved.
Many people think this was because of Gabriel Prosser's slave revolt conspiracy, but most of this had to do with Joe.
Royal and the others who sold out Joe were ostracized But at least they had that reward money, right?
Sheeeeeit. I don't know if you know this, but, white people were not to be trusted in 1823. In fact, the first year white people started being trustworthy was in
In fact, one of the men was never paid until 1834.
The people had to get the legislature together and draft a petition to pay Royal, the black man who REALLY helped the white people murder Joe. The legislature looked at the petition and decided
"Ummmm... we'll pay you... IF your owner frees you in three years."
Royal never got the money.
But the group that raised the money to pay snitches so they could kill Joe... That group never disbanded. It dedicated itself to "special vigilance" in capturing and killing runaway slaves and free blacks.
Of course, that group couldn't just call itself "Kill black people, Inc."
This organization was one of the first of its kind in SC and we take it for granted now.
Over the years, they would go by different names, because the name of the town and the county are no longer the same. But they always were, and still are, dedicated to hunting black people.
They were called:
The Police Association of Pineville.
You can follow @michaelharriot.
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