Nat Turner Revisited
August 21, 1831, is the anniversary of his legendary African-American rebellion against slavery.
Revolution and Rebellion
Sterling A. Brown, the African American poet from Washington D.C., wrote in his poem, “Remembering Nat Turner,” that when Turner launched his attack in Southhampton, Virginia, to end slavery on August 21–22 1831, “the land was quiet, the mist was rising.” But in the remainder of his famous poem, Brown tells the story of Turner’s act of revolutionary audacity to bring death to those who benefited from the misery and oppression of human beings of African descent.
Turner and approximately 60 Africans he recruited before and during the rebellion would kill 57 whites over several days. Their violent uprising put fear in the heart of the Virginia community for two days. When Turner’s raid was put down, he was headed north to the city of Jerusalem, Va., to continue his rebellion.
Turner famously confessed to his actions after he was captured. A biased political pamphlet, referred to as “The Confessions of Nat Turner,” was published. William Styron, the novelist, also wrote a novel about Turner’s confessions called The Confessions of Nat Turner. Yet, African Americans and many others rejected Styron’s flawed attempt to portray the story of an African rebellion in America accurately. African-American writers quickly published a response anthology to the novel William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond. The consensus and goal of Ten Black Writers was to make sure Nat Turner’s legacy is portrayed accurately.
There is a reason Nat Turner is so revered and so respected by African Americans. His rebellion was one of the most important historical events in America’s pre-Civil War years. It explains much of the rest of the history of the 19th century. All Americans should know his story and embrace his violent uprising for what it is — a challenge to evil.
Nathaniel Turner was born on October 2, 1800, in the slave quarters of Benjamin Turner, a well-to-do planter of Southampton County, Virginia. His mother was a recent arrival from Africa and convinced that her son was…