Famous Henrico Citizens: GABRIEL

Gabriel was a slave born in Henrico County in 1776 – the same year the United States became free from Great Britain. He was a blacksmith who lived on a tobacco plantation called Brookfield, owned by a man named Thomas Prosser.

Many slaves were not taught to read or write, but Gabriel was. By the time he was in his early 20s, Gabriel was considered intelligent by those who knew him.

Because he was a slave, Gabriel worked when and where Prosser told him to work. Sometimes Prosser made money by sending Gabriel to work for other people. During these experiences, Gabriel met and worked with other slaves and free men from around the world.

In Virginia at that time, about 40 percent of all residents of the state were slaves. Gabriel realized that he and other slaves should do something to try to become free. Secretly, he began talking with other slaves to organize a rebellion against slaveowners in Richmond as a way to accomplish that goal.

The rebellion was supposed to take place on Aug. 30, 1800, but the weather was too bad that day. Unfortunately for Gabriel, slaveowners began to hear about the plans, and the state militia caught Gabriel as he tried to escape.
The rebellion never occurred, and Gabriel and 25 other slaves were hanged for their attempt. But his attempt was important, because it showed that slaves were not willing to be treated as property of other people. They wanted to be free and were willing to fight for their freedom – just like America had fought for its freedom from Great Britain.

Eventually, slavery ended after the Northern states won the U.S. Civil War in 1865. Gabriel is viewed as a hero because he gave his life in pursuit of freedom for himself and others – because he knew that they deserved to be free.

Henrico Business Bulletin Board

July 2017
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