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Bacon's Rebellion, 1676-1677: Race, Class, and Frontier Conflict in Colonial Virginia

by Verdis L. Robinson and Paul Otto

The Birth of Slavery in America.

In essence, Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 was a conflict within the colonial Virginia gentry---the elite planters rewarded for loyalty to the established order, but in disagreement over Virginia’s governance. With a powerful elite class ever increasing their authority and landholdings, the lower classes of Anglo and Afro-Virginians became increasingly restless, difficult, and dangerous. This restlessness extended across race. Even though black and white laborers shared the same plight against the Virginia gentry, and their commiserations are evident, the backlash of Bacon's Rebellion changed that. The threat to the gentry’s power and authority in colonial Virginia warranted a redefinition of the planter class. In demonstrating that process, this game is designed to take students on a historical journey in colonial Virginia. It is also designed to teach students historical skills including critical thinking, persuasive writing, oral articulation and debate in an active-learning environment.

This is a Level 4 game that is still under development but has been approved by the Reacting Editorial Board (REB) for general use. A detailed explanation of the editorial process and game levels can be found on our REB Page.



American History; Conflict and War Studies; Cultural and Social History; Indigenous and Native American Studies; Political Science and Government; Race and Slavery

17th Century; Modern History

In a Few Words
Race, Class, Conflict

United States of America

Themes and Issues  
Class, Colonialism, Gender, Race

Player Interactions 
Factional, Competitive, Aggressive, Coalition-Building

Sample Class Titles

Revolutionary America; US History to 1877; Atlantic World

Level 3 game (what's that mean?)

Notable Roles

Sir William Berkeley, Sir Henry Chicheley, Nathaniel Bacon

Rolling Dice, Differentiated Voting, Physical Props

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
This game is chaotic and moderately demanding on the instructor.

Primary Source Highlights
Sir William Berkeley, “Enquiries to the Governor of Virginia from the Lords Commissioners of Foreign Plantations,” 1671; Thomas Mathew, “The Beginning, Progress, and Conclusion of Bacon's Rebellion, 1675-1676,” 1705; Unknown, The History of Bacon’s and Ingram’s Rebellion , 1676

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This game is recommended for classes with 12-30+ students.

Class Time  
For this game, 2 setup sessions and 4 to 5 game sessions are recommended.

Possible Reacting Game Pairings

This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive.  Bacon's Rebellion may pair well with:


You can adjust the assignments based on the desired learning outcomes of your class. This game can include traditional paper/research/thesis-driven writing and letter writing. All roles are required to give formal speeches.


Reacting Consortium members can download all game materials below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  

Please Fill out the Permissions Request Form Before Using Bacon's Rebellion in Your Class!


All students need a Gamebook, which includes resources and historical content. Members can download the Gamebook, and provide it to students for free or at cost.

VERSION 4.03 Updated September 2022

Instructor's Manual

The Instructor's Manual includes guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more. Instructors should download Additional Materials for handouts and role information.

Role Sheets

Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, suggestions for further reading, and role-specific info or assignments.  


Verdis L. Robinson

Verdis L. Robinson (he/him) is an associate of the Kettering Foundation with a focus on the democratic practices in community colleges. He has previously served as Campus Compact’s director for community college engagement and the national director for The Democracy Commitment. Prior to his national leadership, Verdis served as a tenured professor of history and African American studies at Monroe Community College where he employed RTTP in all of his history survey courses. Verdis has also served as fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Faculty Seminar on Citizenship and the American and Global Polity, and a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Faculty Seminar on Rethinking Black Freedom Studies: The Jim Crow North and West.

Robinson holds a B.M. in Voice Performance from Boston University, a B.S. cum laude and M.A. in History from SUNY College at Brockport, and an M.A. in African-American Studies from SUNY University at Buffalo. He is currently the Lenora Montgomery Scholar at Meadville Lombard Theological School in Chicago.

Reacting and Related Titles

  • "Lukango!" Stono Rebellion of 1739
  • Amazing Grace: British Abolition of Slavery, 1833

Paul Otto

Paul Otto (he/him) is a member of the faculty at George Fox University where he serves as Professor of History, Faculty Fellow in the university’s honors program, and campus coordinator for role-immersion pedagogy. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Humanities Center.

His research focuses on European–Native American relations in early America and teaches courses on the history of early America, African-Americans, Latin America, and South Africa. He has published several articles, edited two books, and wrote The Dutch-Munsee Encounter in America: The Struggle for Sovereignty in the Hudson Valley, which won the Hendricks Award for the best volume in colonial Dutch studies. He is also writing three other Reacting-style games set in South African history.

Reacting and Related Titles

  • The Origins of Apartheid and African Resistance
  • Debating the Great Trek
  • First Encounters: the Dutch and the Khoi at the Cape of Good Hope
  • Priming the Pump? Debating New Deal Economic Models in 1937
  • Negotiating Neutrality? The Iroqouis League between New France and British America, 1701
  • Philosophy or Scripture? The Heart of a Christian College


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


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