The plans for a large slave rebellion in the Richmond area in 1800, orchestrated by a literate enslaved blacksmith named Gabriel, leaked out before they could be executed, and he and twenty-five other enslaved people were hanged. In reaction to the plot, the Virginia and other legislatures passed restrictions on free blacks, as well as on the education, movement, and hiring out of the enslaved. Although Gabriel's conspiracy is well known among historians, documents relating to it have remained relatively inaccessible. In Gabriel’s Conspiracy, Philip J. Schwarz offers a valuable selection of the documents discovered to date. Together with Michael Nicholls’s complementary book, Whispers of Rebellion (Virginia), these volumes offer a complete account of the quashed slave conspiracy.
This is an overdue and well-executed project. Schwarz’s introduction is clear and gracefully written, and the documents are an immediate and important addition to the available material on early republican Virginia and the United States.