Prosser, Gabriel

Prosser, Gabriel

(?1775–1800) slave insurrectionist; probably born in Henrico County, Va. Other than being a coachman belonging to Thomas Prosser of Henrico County, Va., little was known of his early life and how he came to plan a major slave revolt (1800). Richmond, Va., the state capital, where slaves outweighed whites four-to-one, was chosen as the site of the rebellion. He planned to kill all slave owners, but spare the French and Quaker inhabitants he felt were sympathetic to the black cause, along with women and children. He hoped the remaining 300,000 slaves in Virginia would follow his lead and take over the state. A severe rainstorm the night of the uprising cut off bridges and roads; Prosser and about 1,000 followers were prevented from reaching Richmond, and two house slaves, loyal to their master, informed on the conspirators. Panic swept Richmond, martial law was declared, and some 34 slaves implicated in the conspiracy were rounded up and hanged. Prosser was captured in the hold of the schooner Mary when it docked at Norfolk. Brought back to Richmond in chains, he was interrogated by Governor James Monroe, but refused to divulge any information on the conspiracy. He was hanged on October 7, 1800.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.