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March 26, 2002
African Americans fought in the first armed rebellion against British authority in the colonies, Bacon's Rebellion, in 1676. Nathaniel Bacon was a member of the rising generation of colonial planters who resented British rule and, particularly, the British protection of Indian lands that lay just outside of the Virginia settlement. As life expectancy increased in the second half of the seventeenth century, as more and more indentured servants lived beyond the end of their indentures, and as the king gave away huge tracts of arable land to his friends in England, increasing numbers of poor whites found they could not afford land to farm once their indentures were up. Bacon became the leader of a motley crew of poor whites who rebelled against the British governor, seized Williamsburg, and forced the governor to flee the capital. Bacon also offered freedom to any slaves who joined his rebellion. Bacon's substitute government lasted only a few weeks, but it showed the potential to gain the loyalty of the slaves by offering freedom.
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