Yesterday, we learned about Henry Box Brown, and the actions he took upon discovering that his enslaved family members were sold off to another plantation. Today’s black history moment highlighting Madison Washington, left me pleasantly surprised for three reasons:
1) Unlike most accounts of slave revolts involving enslaved African Americans on U.S. soil, Madison’s slave revolt succeeded!
2) Madison was bold and intelligent enough to escape his own enslavement, twice in a row
3) Most importantly, Madison demonstrated a “We Are Family” mindset by sacrificing his own freedom to lead himself, his wife, and his “family” of enslaved Creole ship brethren to be permanently free in The Bahamas (which was then a British territory)
Madison Washington – Key Facts & Accomplishments
* Born into slavery in Virginia
* Escaped his enslavement the first time by fleeing to Canada. While in Canada, Madison sought work in hopes of earning enough money to purchase his wife’s freedom
* Upon his return to Virginia in search for his wife (Susan), Madison was captured and placed on the Creole – a slave ship departing Richmond, VA destined for New Orleans, LA.
* On Nov. 7, 1841, Madison led 17 enslaved men in a mutiny and gained control of the Creole
*Madison and his crew commanded that the Creole ship be diverted to the Bahamas, which was a British territory
* Once the Creole ship arrived in the Bahamas (Nassau), the enslaved people on that ship were declared free men and women, as Great Britain had abolished slavery in all of its territories. Upon arrival to the Bahamas, Madison reunited with his wife after learning that she was also on the Creole!
Legacy of Madison Washington
* Under Madison’s leadership, 128 enslaved African Americans won their freedom in The Bahamas, making the Creole revolt the most successful slave revolt in U.S. history
* Madison’s successful slave revolt caused an international incident that nearly drove the U.S. and Great Britain to the brink of a third war
* Madison’s commitment to his family (his wife, and his “family” of formerly enslaved brethren aboard the Creole), inspired him to make a lasting difference in the lives of others
* Inspired Frederick Douglass to write a fictional piece of literature, titled “The Heroic Slave.”
Visit the below websites, and/or conduct your own research, to learn more about Madison Washington:
US National Archives: “The Creole Affair – The Slave Rebellion That Led the U.S. and Great Britain to the Brink of War”
Smithsonian Magazine article: “When Enslaved People Commandeered a Ship and Hightailed it to Freedom in the Bahamas”
History.com article: “This 1841 Rebellion at Sea Freed More Than 100 Enslaved People”
The Creole Case (1841)
Richmond Times-Dispatch news article: “Brig Creole slaves”