The Zanj Rebellion
Long before African slaves were ever brought to North America, they incited a rebellion in the Middle East and went head to head with an empire. The insurrection began in 869 A.D. when Zanj slaves—an Arabic term used to describe East Africans—joined with an Arab revolutionary named Ali bin Muhammad and rose up against the Abbasid Caliphate. Spurred on by promises of land and freedom, the Zanj began conducting night raids on nearby cities in order to seize supplies and liberate fellow slaves.
What began as a humble revolt slowly grew into a full-scale revolution that lasted 15 years. Slaves, Bedouins and serfs all joined with the rebels, who at their height supposedly numbered over 500,000. These revolutionaries even amassed a navy and controlled as many as six fortified cities in modern-day Iraq. The Zanj Rebellion would finally end in the early 880s after the Abbasid army mobilized and conquered the rebel capital. Ali bin Muhammad was killed in the battle, but many of the Zanj were spared and were even invited to join the Abbasid military.