Here are 10 uprisings in the last three centuries that shook the ground of oppressors, brought significant changes to nations, and gave rise to unforgettable heroes and heroines. Listed in no particular order, these 10 famous uprisings in history are all heavy with social and political importance.
Saint-Dominigue was the French colony we know today as Haiti. Its massive number of black slaves outnumbered whites 10-to-one. While the French Revolution was raging back at home, so was the rage of the slaves. Led by Toussaint Louverture, a slave army of thousands went village to village, massacring citizens and destroying plantations. Louverture eventually sided with the French Republican Army in a deal to join forces, fight the Royalists and abolish slavery. He was deceived and died in a French prison. By 1803, Saint-Domingue was the decolonized country of Haiti.
Sources: Scholar.library.miami.edu, en.wikipedia.org
After decades of occupation by Israel, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip formed an uprising or intifada, which means to “shake off.” Thousands of disenfranchised Palestinians took to the streets to protest against Israel. Televised across the world, people saw the archetypal figure of Palestinian youth throwing stones at Israelis. An estimated 1,087 Palestinians and 160 Israelis died. Despite peace agreements at Madrid and Oslo, the fighting continues.
Tired of decades of the French empire using their country as a military outpost, Algerian rebels formed the National Liberation Front (FLN) in 1954, and committed acts of violence against both the French and the opposing Algerian group, the Mouvement National Algerien. Bombings and assassinations in public arenas in Algerian cities became known as the Café Wars. Things got worse when the Secret Army Organization (OAS), a French insurrectionist group angry at the possibility of a liberated Algeria, carried out attacks on Algerian and French loyalists. With the Evian Accords in 1962, Algeria voted for a free country, and the FLN took full control.
Sources: Vt.edu, en.wikipedia.org
It was Aug. 22, 1831. In Southampton County, Va., Nat Turner, a deeply pious preacher and slave, made real the visions he’d had from God to fight violently against his slave owners. Gathering six other slaves, they raided the home of his master Joseph Travis and killed him and his family. Going house to house gathering up more slaves, Turner and his army slaughtered dozens of people, and went over to the next town of Jerusalem. He was eventually captured, tried, and hanged on Nov. 5 along with 55 other men in his guerrilla army.
Sources: en.wikipedia.org, pbs.org, afroamhistory, about.com.
It started in Tunisia, then lit up Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Turkey, Yemen, and on and on. In Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after his fruit stand was shut down by police one time too many. The world watched revolutions unfold in real time in some of the most stunning TV footage of the 21st century. Especially riveting were Egypt’s two monumental uprisings and presidential oustings. Demonstrations in the Arab World led to minor protests, like in Oman, or all-out civil war, like in Syria. A general outcry against authoritarian rule and a call for democracy are common to most of these demonstrations. So far, five leaders have been overthrown: in Egypt (twice), Yemen, Tunisia, and Libya.
Though there is little light to be found in the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, this organized revolt in 1943 in the Warsaw Ghetto produced stunning acts of courage. Between 1941 and 1943, many Jewish underground movements were formed in the squalor of the ghettos were Jews were quarantined. The Jewish Fighting Organization, or Z.O.B., was a major one. On April 19, 1943, Nazi forces invaded the ghetto to move the surviving population to labor camps. Armed with only burning bottles, handguns, and petrol bottles, rebels fought them off for nearly a month. In the battle, 13,000 Jews died along with hundreds of German soldiers.
Sources: ushmm.org, en.wikipedia.org
The mighty French Revolution started in France’s large state prison, the Bastille, on July 14, 1789. An angry mob of lower- and middle-class Parisian citizens, fed up with the Monarchy, invaded the prison. They demanded ammunition stored within to fuel the uprising which was happening on the streets. After infiltrating the garrison, they beheaded the prison’s commander and paraded his head around. Absolute monarchy was over in France, the Revolution in full swing, and by 1792 the First Republic was created.
Sources: bl.uk, about.com, examiner.com.
In South Africa, apartheid had been in place for decades, dispossessing blacks from equal work, education, and civil rights. The Bantu Education Act of 1953 forced racial segregation in academic facilities. As an answer, groups like the Black Consciousness Movement and the South African Students Organization were mobilized. On June 16, 1976, after the Afrikaans language was made mandatory, tens of thousands of students took to the Soweto streets for a non-violent march. The police responded with tear gas and live ammunition, killing between 176 and 700 people, mostly students (the exact number is uncertain). Riots and strikes ensued across the country.
Sources: en.wikipedia.org, sahistory.org.za
From May to September of 1798, the Society of United Irishmen rose up in large numbers against the occupying British in their country. Using the French and American revolutions as models, Catholics and Protestants united in Dublin and Belfast to demand parliamentary reforms and the expulsion of the British. Originally a peaceful movement, it became more militant after being driven underground by the Irish and British governments. An attempt to seize the castle on May 23 was thwarted by opposing forces, but many factions of the United Irishmen continued to rebel in multiple counties, winning many small victories. The Wexford insurgents held off as long as they could during the famous Vinegar Hill showdown. By October, the rebellion was suppressed.
Source: utk.edu, britannica.com, ego4u.com.
His entire career was one brilliant, non-violent uprising, but let’s hone in one event. On March 12, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi took 78 of his supporters on a 241-mile walk from Sabarmati to the coast of the Arabian Sea, in protest of Britain’s monopoly on salt. Stopping in many towns along the way, Gandhi roused further support for their plight to “make salt from the sea.” By the time they reached the coastal town of Dandi, there were thousands of followers. Soon enough, mass civil disobedience, or “satyagraha” was seen all over the country as Indians began to make their own salt from natural sources. Police arrested more than 60,000 people. The legacy continued. Martin Luther King Jr. used “satyagraha” as a model for his resistance movement.
Sources: history.com, en.wikipedia.org