Famous slaves

This is a list of famous slaves. Many of these slaves are famous because they managed to fight back and escape.


aesopAesop. 6th century BC. A legendary figure from ancient Greece. He was reportedly a slave who won his freedom by his intelligence and cleverness. He wrote Aesop’s tales, a collection of stories and fables.

mosesMoses Moses was born among the people of Israel enslaved in Egypt. It was Moses who led the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt across the Red Sea. He is considered a prophet of Judaism and Christianity.


Spartacus (c. 109–71 BC). Spartacus was a gladiator slave. He led a major slave uprising against the Roman Empire, in what was known as the Servile Revolt, he died in 71 BC.

Saint Patrick (387–c.460) was abducted from Wales and taken to Ireland as a slave. After a few years, he escaped from slavery and became a fervent Christian missionary. Saint Patrick is credited with helping Christianity to spread throughout Ireland and is the patron saint of Ireland.

susan-b-anthonyDenmark Vesey (c.1767–1822) was an African American slave, and later a freeman from South Carolina. After gaining his freedom, he planned what would have been one of the largest slave rebellions in the United States. But details of rebellion were leaked and he was executed.

susan-b-anthonySally Hemings (1773–1835) A mixed-race slave of Thomas Jefferson. She had six children of uncertain parenthood.

Sojourner_truth Sojourner Truth (1797–1883) African-American abolitionist and women’s rights campaigner. In 1851, gave a famous extemporaneous speech “Ain’t I a woman?” which supported equal rights for blacks and women.

susan-b-anthonyDred Scott (c.1799–1858) was a slave who attempted to sue for his freedom in the court case Scott v. Sandford (1857). He lost the case, but the outrage at the decision deepened divisions between northern and southern states before the civil war.

susan-b-anthonyJohn Brown (1800–1859) While not actually a slave, John Brown’s actions made a big impact on the history of slavery in the US. A fervent white abolitionist who believed in armed insurrection against the institution of slavery. In 1859, he led an armed uprising in Harpers Ferry, Virginia aiming to free slaves and end the practice. He was executed for his attempted uprising. It was a factor in precipitating the American civil war.

susan-b-anthonyWilliam Harvey Carney (1840–1908) Born into slavery in Virginia, he escaped through the underground network. He fought in the American Civil War and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery.

susan-b-anthonyFrederick Douglass (1818–1895) A former slave, Douglass became a leading figurehead in the anti-slavery movement. One of the most prominent African American leaders of the Nineteenth Century. His autobiography of life as a slave, and his speeches denouncing slavery were influential in changing public opinion.

susan-b-anthonySam Sharpe (1801–1832) was a slave for most of his life but was allowed to be educated. In 1831, he led a Christmas rebellion in Jamaica against slavery. Although the rebellion was defeated, it contributed to the 1833 abolition of slavery across the British Empire.

nat-turner Nat Turner (1800 – 1831) African-American born into slavery. Turner led slaves and free blacks in an uprising against slavery. For two days, they killed slave owners and took matters into their own hands. He was later captured and executed.

Olaudah Equiano (1745–1797)  The first black African slave to write about his experience as a slave. His book ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano‘ played a pivotal role in turning public opinion in Britain against slavery.

Ignatius Sancho (1729–1780)  Former slave who escaped and gained his freedom. His writings about his experiences provided a vivid first-hand account of the cruelty of slavery and also the humanity and personalities of former slaves.

booker_t_washington Booker T. Washington (1856 – 1915) Born into slavery, he was freed in 1865 at the end of the American civil war. He became a noted author, orator, and adviser to the presidents of Roosevelt and Taft. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, he was often considered the de facto leader of African-Americans. He advocated an incremental approach to improving education and life prospects of black Americans. He wrote about his experiences “Up from Slavery” (1901)

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan.  “Famous Slaves”, Oxford,  UK. www.biographyonline.net, 01/12/2013. Updated 25 July 2018.

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