Gabriel Prosser, who was hanged for leading a failed slave revolt in 1800, has won a symbolic gubernatorial pardon.
Prosser and 34 supporters were executed in Richmond on Aug. 30, 1800, after two slaves revealed the planned uprising in Richmond, known as Gabriel’s Rebellion.
In an informal pardon, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said Prosser was motivated by “his devotion to the ideals of the American Revolution — it was worth risking death to secure liberty.”
“Gabriel’s cause — the end of slavery and the furtherance of equality of all people — has prevailed in the light of history,” Kaine wrote to the Virginia chapter of the NAACP, which sought the pardon. “It is important to acknowledge that history favorably regards Gabriel’s cause while consigning legions who sought to keep him and others in chains to be forgotten.”
Prosser promoted an uprising by thousands of slaves 31 years before the better-known Nat Turner insurrection in Southampton County.
Gabriel’s Rebellion was snuffed out by Gov. James Monroe, the future president, who was tipped off by a slaveholder. Prosser and his followers were hanged.
King Salim Khalfani, Virginia State Conference executive director of the NAACP, said Kaine’s action properly honors Prosser and his followers “as women and men of integrity who fought for freedom.”
“In the capital of the Confederacy, where monuments to the traitors of the Union are maintained with tax dollars, this is a momentous occasion,” Khalfani said in a statement Thursday.
Kaine’s spokesman, Kevin Hall, said the governor did not issue a formal pardon for Prosser because that is “usually for a living person, not a person who has died.”
Kaine acted under broad clemency powers extended to a governor by the Virginia Constitution, he said.