Madison Washington was an American cook who started a slave revolt in 1841 on board the brig Creole. The ship was transporting over 130 slaves from Virginia to sell in New Orleans, as part of the coastwise slave trade. Although the Creole was a domestic ship, the Black men and women on board suffered conditions to those of the international slave ships, such as indiscriminate cruelty, sexual abuse and physical deprivation.
On the night of November 7, 1841, Washington led over a dozen of his fellow slaves into rebellion; they killed one of the slave traders on board and wounded the crew. The slaves were kept in a forward hold and when a grate was lifted, Washington overtook the deck. The slaves took control of the Creole and commanded that it be sailed to Nassau, which was under British control at the time; slavery had been abolished in Great Britain since 1839.
The Americans protested, but the British declared the slaves to be free under their law and refused the demands that they be returned. The British took Washington and his conspirators into custody. Because of the death of the slave trader, the governor of the Bahamas could not let the men go free. Washington and his compatriots in the revolt were detained while the rest were allowed to live as free people.
A special session of the Admiralty Court heard the case, ruled in favor of the men, and freed them in April 1842. The remaining 116 slaves had achieved freedom immediately in the preceding fall; five had remained on the ship and chose to return to slavery in the United States. As 128 slaves were freed due to this revolt, it is considered the most successful in United States history.
The Creole Mutiny: A Tale of Revolt Aboard a Slave Ship by George Hendrick