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Nat Turner (pictured) was a former Black American slave who led the only effective, sustained slave rebellion in U.S. history.
Turner’s courageous revolt against America’s founding benefactor of demonic inhumanity in August of 1831. He spread terror throughout the white South where slaveholders were exceedingly brutal. Turner’s freedom fighting set off a new wave of oppressive legislation, which prohibited the education, movement, and assembly of slaves. Pro-slavery antiabolitionist convictions that persisted in that region were also stiffened until the American Civil War (1861–65).
Turner was born on October 2, 1800, in South Hampton County, Virginia. He brought into this world on the property of a prosperous small-plantation owner who lived in a remote area. His mother was an African native who transmitted a passionate denouncement of slavery to her son. Turner learned to read from one of his master’s sons. Also, h eagerly absorbed an intensive level of religious training.
In the early 1820s, he was sold to a neighboring farmer of small means. During the following decade, his religious ardor tended to approach fanaticism. Turner saw himself called upon by God to lead his people out of bondage. He began to exert a powerful influence on many of the nearby slaves, who called him “The Prophet.”
In 1831, shortly after Turner had been sold again—this time to a craftsman named Joseph Travis—a sign came to Turner in the form of an eclipse of the Sun. This caused Turner to believe that the hour to strike was near. His plan was to capture the armory Jerusalem, Virginia. After gathering many recruits, Turner’s small army pressed on to the Dismal Swamp, which 30 miles to the east. Any capture plans made there would be difficult.
On the night of August 21, Turner bonded together with seven fellow slaves who he trusted. They launched a campaign of total annihilation. They murdered Travis and his family in their sleep. After that, they set forth on a bloody march toward Jerusalem. In two days and nights, about 60 white people were killed. However, Turner’s insurrection was handicapped by a lack of discipline among his followers.
Only 75 Black men rallied to his cause. The rest of the Black community’s men chose to live in cowardice as slaves. They were not brave enough to either fight for their people’s freedom or possibly die honorably as strong men. In the end, armed resistance from local whites and the arrival of Virginia’s state militia—a total force of 3,000 men—defeated Turner’s small coalition of the willing.
Only a few miles from Jerusalem, some of Turner’s fellow freedom fighters were dispersed and either killed or captured. Unfortunately, many innocent slaves were massacred in the hysteria that followed. Turner eluded his pursuers for several weeks after losing his comrades in battle. However, on October 30, 1831, Turner was captured. His death sentence was carried out by hanging nearly two weeks later.
Turner’s legendary life story of heroically fighting slavery’s evil to the death and freeing his people from bondage was chronicled in a 2016 film called The Birth of a Nation. Critics of Turner’s enduring legacy paint him as an evil rebel who stirred up a needless revolt in a civilized society. But American slavery (rightfully and formerly called The Peculiar Institution) was anything but civilized.
The proponents and apathetic souls who exacerbated the brutal dehumanization of ancient Black America had to go; by any means necessary.
Reference: Augustyn, A. (2020 September 28) Nat Turner: American enslaved person and bondsman. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Nat-Turner
BlackThen.com writer and historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.