On September 9, 1739, the largest slave uprising in Britain’s mainland North American colonies prior to the American Revolution erupted near Charleston, South Carolina. Jemmy, a literate slave — also called “Cato” — led 20 other enslaved Kongolese men to the Stono River, for which the event is named, the Stono Rebellion. (It is also sometimes called Cato’s Rebellion and Cato’s Conspiracy.) Several confrontations occurred, with less than a hundred deaths all told, before the rebellion was quelled.
The South Carolina legislature passed, as a response, the Negro Act of 1740, which restricted slave assembly, education and movement. It also enacted a 10-year moratorium against importing African slaves, and established penalties against slaveholders’ harsh treatment of slaves. The legislature also began regulating manumission.