Author: Jessica Taylor

is an assistant professor of oral and public history at Virginia Tech.

Bacon’s Rebellion in Memory

Bacon’s Rebellion, fought from 1676 to 1677, was an uprising against Governor William Berkeley’s rule in colonial Virginia driven by an interplay of forces, including high taxes, falling tobacco prices, and escalating Anglo-Native conflicts along the western frontier. Nineteenth- and twentieth-century histories, novels, plays, textbooks, and commemorations turned Bacon’s Rebellion into the prototype for the American Revolution. For white Virginians, particularly after the American Civil War (1861–1865), the story positioned a southern Virginian rebel as an early patriot, placing the commonwealth front and center in the American fight for freedom from English rule. Nathaniel Bacon, an educated James River tobacco plantation owner and member of the governor’s Council who had only been in Virginia a short time before the rebellion, grew into a distinctly Virginian hero, a “torchbearer of liberty” who rallied oppressed white men to the cause of freedom.