The Stono Rebellion (sometimes called Cato's Conspiracy or Cato's Rebellion) was a slave rebellion that commenced on 9 September 1739, in the colony of South Carolina. It was the largest slave uprising in the British mainland colonies, with 21 whites and 44 blacks killed. The uprising was led by native Africans who were likely from the Kingdom of Kongo. Some of the rebels spoke Portuguese. Their leader, Jemmy (referred to in some reports as "Cato", and probably a slave belonging to the Cato, or Cater, family who lived just off the Ashley River and north of the Stono River), was a literate slave who led 20 other enslaved Kongolese, who may have been former soldiers, in an armed march south from the Stono River (for which the rebellion is named). They were bound for Spanish Florida. The Spanish promised freedom and land at St. Augustine to slaves escaped from the British colonies.
They recruited nearly 60 other slaves and killed some whites before being intercepted and defeated by the South Carolina militia near the Edisto River. A group of slaves escaped and traveled another 30 miles (50 km) before battling a week later with the militia. Most of the captured slaves were executed; a few survived to be sold to markets in the West Indies.
In response to the rebellion, the South Carolina legislature passed the Negro Act of 1740 restricting slave assembly, education, and movement. It also enacted a 10-year moratorium against importing African slaves, and established penalties against slaveholders' harsh treatment of slaves. It required legislative approval for manumissions, which slaveholders had previously been able to arrange privately.
- Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion (Norton Library) - Peter H. Wood
- Cry Liberty: The Great Stono River Slave Rebellion of 1739 (New Narratives in American History) - Peter Charles Hoffer