Rebellious Passage: The Creole Revolt and America’s Coastal Slave Trade | Jeffrey R. Kerr-Ritchie

In late October 1841, the Creole left Richmond with 137 slaves bound for New Orleans. It arrived five weeks later minus the Captain, one passenger, and most of the captives. Nineteen rebels had seized the US slave ship en route and steered it to the British Bahamas where the slaves gained their liberty. Drawing upon a sweeping array of previously unexamined state, federal, and British colonial sources, Rebellious Passage examines the neglected maritime dimensions of the extensive US slave trade and slave revolt. The focus on south-to-south self-emancipators at sea differs from the familiar narrative of south-to-north fugitive slaves over land. Moreover, a broader hemispheric framework of clashing slavery and antislavery empires replaces an emphasis on US antebellum sectional rivalry. Written with verve and commitment, Rebellious Passage chronicles the first comprehensive history of the ship revolt, its consequences, and its relevance to global modern slavery.


‘We have waited almost two centuries for the full, gripping story of Madison Washington and his fellow mutineers aboard the Creole. Here at long last comes Jeffrey R. Kerr-Ritchie to narrate their magnificent tale with acuity and power. This is inspirational ‘history from below’ at its best.’ Marcus Rediker, author of The Amistad Rebellion

‘Rebellious Passage provides a comprehensive account of the most successful slave revolt in the history of the United States. At the same time, through a detailed analysis of the domestic slave trade along the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, it offers a maritime history of the antebellum era from a truly transnational and transatlantic perspective.’ Matthew J. Clavin, author of Aiming for Pensacola: Fugitive Slaves on the Atlantic and Southern Frontiers

‘Kerr-Ritchie examines the successful slave rebellion aboard the America slaveship Creole in 1841 – a revolt often overlooked in favor of the Amistad rebellion two years earlier. Kerr-Ritchie contends that the Creole uprising warrants further study for a number of reasons, among them its role in heightening sectional hostility within the US, pushing a proslavery US and an antislavery Great Britain to the brink of war, highlighting the nature and scope of the coastal slave trade, and revealing the struggle for freedom on the parts of both the enslaved aboard and the Bahamians (who welcomed the enslaved as free people and facilitated their further travels to Jamaica). … Rebellious Passage is a compelling addition to the literature for its focus on the Creole revolt per se (including subsequent court cases), the experiences of the former slaves in Jamaica, and the coastal slave trade in general. Recommended.’ W. H. Taylor, Choice

Book Description

This book examines the successful slave revolt aboard the US slave ship Creole during the early 1840s and its consequences. Drawing upon previously unexamined federal sources, British colonial documents, states’ records, and American and British newspapers, it examines the neglected maritime dimensions of the US slave trade and slave revolt.

About the Author

Jeffrey R. Kerr-Ritchie is Professor of History at Howard University, Washington DC and author of Freedpeople in the Tobacco South: Virginia, 1860-1900 (1999); Rites of August First: Emancipation Day in the Black Atlantic World (2007); and Freedom’s Seekers: Essays on Comparative Emancipation (2014).


  • Publisher : Cambridge University Press (March 28, 2019)
  • Language: : English
  • Paperback : 372 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1108700004
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1108700009
  • Item Weight : 1.17 pounds
  • Dimensions : 5.98 x 0.79 x 8.94 inches

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