Primary Resource

"Uncle Gabriel"

In this African American song, "Uncle Gabriel," the singer tells the story of Gabriel's Conspiracy, an attempted uprising of slaves in Henrico County in August 1800. One of the chief conspirators, an enslaved blacksmith named Gabriel, was hanged on October 10. This version of the song, anthologized in Black Writers of America (1972), may date to after 1831. Its reference, in the second verse, to Southampton County suggests Nat Turner's Rebellion and not Gabriel's Conspiracy. Gabriel was, however, captured in Norfolk after boarding a vessel below Richmond. An enslaved crewman turned him in.

Transcription from Original

  • Oh, my boys I'm bound to tell you;
  • Oh! Oh!
  • Listen awhile, and I will tell you;
  • Oh! Oh!
  • I'll tell you little 'bout Uncle Gabriel;
  • Oh, boys, I've just begun.
  • Hard times in old Virginny.
  • Oh, don't you know old Uncle Gabriel?
  • Oh! Oh!
  • Oh, he was a darkey General,
  • Oh! Oh!
  • He was the chief of the insurgents,
  • Way down in Southampton.
  • Hard times in old Virginny.
  • It was a little boy betrayed him,
  • Oh! Oh!
  • A little boy by the name of Daniel,
  • Oh! Oh!
  • Betrayed him at the Norfolk landing;
  • Oh, boys I'm getting done.
  • Hard times in old Virginny.
  • Says he, How d'ye do, my Uncle Gabriel?
  • Oh! Oh!
  • I am not your Uncle Gabriel,
  • Oh! Oh!
  • My name it is Jim McCullen;
  • Some they calls me Archy Mullin.
  • Hard times in old Virginny.
  • They took him down to the gallows,
  • Oh! Oh!
  • They drove him down with four grey horses,
  • Oh! Oh!
  • Brice's Ben, he drove the wagon,
  • Oh, boys, I am most done.
  • Hard times in old Virginny.
  • And there they hung him, and they swung him,
  • Oh! Oh!
  • And they swung him and they hung him,
  • Oh! Oh!
  • And that was the last of the darkey General;
  • Oh, boys I'm just done.
  • Hard times in old Virginny.