We know that acts of rebellion and resistance were stunningly commonplace at every point in time, in every corner of the world where slavery has existed. And yet, the records or traces of those rebellions have a tendency to disappear, to vanish from collective memory and history textbooks. Our readings and discussions often return to the ways that rebellion persistently produces silences, erasures, broken trails of evidence, rumors and whispers, absent names, white hysteria, and jumbled networks of information. At points in the course, it seemed that the more we studied rebellion, the less we knew for sure about it. And the deeper we reached into the archive, the less certain we became even about the stability of the term “rebellion.” We have noted how words like “insurrection,” “conspiracy,” and “revolt” surface in particular ways with particular connotations, sometimes to encourage rebellion and sometimes to stifle it. We have also read about poisonings, plots to murder enslavers and their families, and refusals to conform to enslavers’ demands. We asked, and this site asks in part: What “counts” as a Black rebellion? 

While we don’t yet know exactly how to answer that question, this site thinks about rebellions foremost through their fragmentation, incompleteness, and unknowability. We know that these histories cannot be fully recovered or reassembled, and the projects on our site take seriously the material violence that accompanies archival fragmentation, erasure, and silence. In creating projects that address these gaps not merely as debilitation or negation but as sites of possibility, however, we read fragmented rebellions as spaces of Black life. Instead of trying to connect all of the dots, fill in the blank spaces, and tie up the many loose ends in the archive, our site preserves those gaps and tries to learn through and with them. 

Instead of trying to make the imperfect pieces fit together perfectly, we listen for life in the spaces between the fragments. Fragmented Rebellions asks you to imagine Black rebellion in new ways, but especially to understand rebellion as a regular feature of Black life in the African diaspora.