The Confessions of Nat Turner by Nat TurnerIn 1831 Nat Turner led the largest slave uprising in American history, murdering 60 white men, women and children with a mob of slaves in Virginia. Some dude went and interviewed him in prison, and this claims to be his first-person account of his life and revolt.
The motives of the dude - a white slaveowner named Thomas Ruffin Gray - have been questioned quite a bit, as has the authenticity of the whole thing. There were a bunch of witnesses to the confession, but of course none who were sympathetic to Nat Turners mission to murder all their babies. I like this piece about the Confessions. (Like any discussion of this primary source, it gets a bit wrapped up in Styrons Pulitzer-winning 1967 The Confessions of Nat Turner.) Were unlikely to get a definitive answer about this, but the tendency has been to more or less take it at its word. It feels to me like Gray has written down what Turner told him. (Along with a few Holy shit!-style asides.)
Turner, who taught himself to read at a young age and comes off as highly intelligent, claims that God communicates with him and ordered him to fight; what he describes matches pretty well with schizophrenia.
On the other hand, it also matches pretty well with God. Go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, He tells Samuel in 15:3-4. When asked, Do you not find yourself mistaken now? Turner answers, Was not Christ crucified. And by signs in the heavens that it would make known to me when I should commence the great work. Its a weird sentence structure, but you get the idea: only God knows the difference between a prophet and a schizophrenic.
Most of Turners confession is a step-by-step, almost laconic description of the revolt itself. Twas my object to carry terror and devastation wherever we went, he helpfully explains. As he goes he picks up a crowd of slaves, sometimes drunk, who (according to him) carried out most of the bloody work: I sometimes got in sight in time to see the work of death completed, viewed the mangled bodies as they lay, in silent satisfaction, and immediately started in quest of other victims.
Its disturbing stuff. Worth reading? Sure, yeah; its certainly not boring, and its very short. As a (probable) primary source about the effects and events of slavery, its interesting.
These actions are of course terrible, but then so is the institution of slavery that inspired them; they were technically a response in kind, so if you believe in an eye for an eye, you should have no problem with Nat Turner. It seems to me like we have to judge slavery first, and Turners response to it second.
History has decided that Turners rebellion was a bad idea: it led directly to the retributive murder of 200 slaves and the passage of new, even more restrictive laws prohibiting education and assembly, among other things. John Browns rebellion in 1860, on the other hand, is given credit as a spark for the Civil War. And I dont know, maybe Browns timing was more fortuitous and its nice that he didnt murder any babies, but in general Id say that both events were inevitable reactions to slavery. Turner pleaded not guilty to his charges, saying to his counsel, that he did not feel so. Fair enough.
Nat Turner & The Rebellion That Shook the South
Believing himself chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery, Nat Turner launches a bloody slave insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner, an enslaved man and educated minister, planned to capture the county armory at Jerusalem, Virginia, and then march 30 miles to Dismal Swamp, where his rebels would be able to elude their pursuers. During the next two days and nights, Turner and 75 followers rampaged through Southampton County, killing about 60 whites.
Nat Turner's slave rebellion
On the evening of August 21—22, , an enslaved preacher and self-styled prophet named Nat Turner launched the most deadly slave revolt in the history of the United States. Over the course of a day in Southampton County , Turner and his allies killed fifty-five white men, women, and children as the rebels made their way toward Jerusalem, Virginia now Courtland. Less than twenty-four hours after the revolt began, the rebels encountered organized resistance and were defeated in an encounter at James Parker's farm. Following this setback, Turner and other rebels scrambled to reassemble their forces. The next day, a series of defeats led to the effective end of the revolt. Whites quickly and brutally reasserted their control over Southampton County, killing roughly three dozen blacks without trials. Within a few days of the revolt, white leaders in Southampton became increasingly confident that the revolt had been suppressed and worked to limit the extralegal killing of blacks.
Nat Turner - Slave Rebellion 1800-1831 (African American History)
Nat Turner October 2, to November 11, was a slave who became a preacher and made history as the leader of one of the bloodiest slave revolts in America on August 21, Following the insurrection Turner hid for six weeks, but he was eventually caught and later hanged. The incident ended the emancipation movement in that region and led to even harsher laws against slaves. While Turner became an icon of the s black power movement, others have criticized him for using violence as a means of demanding change. On August 21, , Nat Turner and his supporters began a revolt against white slave owners with the killing of his owners, the Travis family.