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history against slaveholders and the institution of slavery in Virginia¶s Southampton County in 1831. The rebellion demonstrated to the North that the level of anger held by the enslaved, as well as the lengths freedom seekers were prepared to go for liberty. Although his revolt was an isolated event in a remote part of Virginia, it had a profound impact on white southerners. Each October was time of toil for the blacks on the Virginia plantation which was owned by Benjamin Turner, who had twenty-five to thirty blacks who worked on his plantation; caring for six to seven hundred acres of his farm land.1 One day the cry of a newborn baby could be heard outside one of the several living quarters of the slaves, which was located behind Benjamin Turner¶s house.2 However, the Turners knew the care of the mother and child could be managed by the house servants who took care of each other with the guidance and assistance of a wise grandmother.3 Benjamin Turner looked in and asked the servants how everything was going; he felt good about having a new slave boy being born which meant he would have a strong and helpful new slave to add to the value of his estate.4 However, the story tellers of long ago had talked about how the mother given the familiar Christian name of Nancy who arrived in Virginia from Africa how she had to be tied to prevent her from killing her newborn son.5 Therefore, the boy who like his spirited mother was given a Christian name also that of Nat, short for Nathaniel, which in Hebrew meant the gift of
Roy F. Johnson The Nat Turner Slave Insurrection (Murfreesboro, North Carolina. Johnson Publishing Company, 1966). 11 2 Johnson 12 3 Jonson 12 4 Johnson 12 5 Johnson 13
8 Nat¶s birth. Virginia.13 Nat¶s mother Nancy learned quickly that the slaves had their own social distinction as well as the whites.12 However. Turner and his father Benjamin. no one on the plantation in 1800 would have thought it possible that a combination of pagan and Christian teaching by the Turner¶s would be reflected in Nat¶s barbaric treatment of whites.11 In addition. five days before the execution of Gabriel Prosser.9 Nat¶s boyhood on the Turner farm did not seem to have been an unpleasant one. together with these events. and five months after a white leader name John Brown led the 1859 raid on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. sought to start a slave rebellion in Virginia.10 Therefore. there were old slaves that Benjamin Turner had that belonged to his grandfather as well as others given to him by his father this was the Virginia way of life. 1800 in Southampton County.6 Nat Turner had been born into slavery on October 2. and great-grandfather Simon had used black slaves for more than half a century to develop their plantations. as it was in most of the Southern households. the pacifying influence that the Turner¶s used towards their slaves for years was essential for their successful handling of their slaves.God.7 Who in August 1800 led slaves of the Richmond area to an abortive rebellion. was as a milestone on the long journey of the blacks from bondage to freedom. grandfather William. for the white and black children to play together while the 6 7 Johnson 13 Johnson 13 8 Johnson 13 9 Johnson 13 10 Johnson 14 11 Johnson 14 12 Johnson 15 13 Johnson 15 14 Johnson 15 .14 It was the custom among the Turner¶s.
Benjamin Turner and his wife Elizabeth had a few slaves passed on to them by their parents. During the colonial period England. when he found no slaveholders at the coast waiting to purchase slaves he butchered them all in cold blood.19 Slave ships had been moving towards America since 1619. However. Slavery had been a tradition in Africa for centuries before coming of the European traders. The blacks received information by underground communication.16 Nat had before him the opportunity to obtain all the information that was available to him. At least a few of the slaves who shared Nancy¶s company had first-hand knowledge of the harsh slave trade and brought stories of cruelty from other areas.15 The black children received the same advantage of instruction as the whites. 15 16 Johnson 18 Johnson 19 17 Johnson 19 18 Johnson 20 19 Johnson 20 20 Johnson 20 21 Johnson 24 . and during its later stages which was symbolized by brutality and contempt for human life. Since most Southampton plantations used plans which each master managed their own farm and place a black over each group of slaves to help their master take care of the farm land without interruption among slaves. There Nat came to learn to read and write.17 This system had created a feeling of pride among those slaves who did exceptional work on the farm.21 From the beginning of slavery fear had been used as a means to control slaves.20 Although.18 There was a story of a black king of Loango who had brought one hundred slaves to the coast for sale.domestics went about their chores. with the word being passed along by free slaves. this was the trade center for slaves. because he thought it too be expensive to feed them.
26 As the only adult son and executor of his father¶s estate it was his responsibility to look after the affairs of his mother. by black sailors.23 However.24 Nat. his mother and six other slaves whose names were Sam. Lydia. Nat was only ten years old at the time and not able to work. All the old mater¶s thirty something slaves were divided between Elizabeth and her five children. never to be heard from again. servants that attended church and blacks who visited the village and city markets. Chary. with Nancy marrying Thomas Westbrook in 1809. He ran away from his master and abandoned his family when Nat was still young. By late 1810 Nat¶s old master Benjamin Turner died in his early fifties.Slaves moved from one part of the country to another. the master¶s death brought no severance of family ties among the slaves and Nat did not lose touch with his early family or his white playmates. the oldest son. He and his oldest sister Nancy Barratt had established their households one year earlier. but unfortunate for his family and slaves his life would be cut short by his death twelve years after that of his father.25 Samuel Turner had the means to become a respected and influential planter during this time. Drew. 22 Nat¶s high spirited father left an example of disaffection. Instead Nat reflected on the prophetic signs as interpreted by his 22 23 Johnson 25 Johnson 25 24 Johnson 27 25 Johnson 27 26 Johnson 28 . Miver and Elick were already in possession of Samuel Turner. Nat never showed any desire to become a craftsman like other male slaves had. He was certain this was not his calling. two younger brothers and one younger sister.
27 Meanwhile other things were taking place on and off the Samuel Turner plantation. Inc. Who was a local carriage maker who had married the widow 27 Johnson 28 Johnson 32 29 Johnson 32 30 William Styron. Nat went to a neighboring farm owner name Thomas Moore. giving them life time rights on the plantation. so he was exposed not only to the day to day horrors of slavery but also the horrors of the Middle Passage. The Confession of Nat Turner (California: Wadsworth Publishing Company.28 Soon after 1800 cotton had taken the place of tobacco during this time as one of Southampton County¶s main export. both his mother and grandmother had been born in Africa. Turner did demonstrate a sense of kindness to two of his late mother¶s old slaves. Nat married a slave named Cherry in the early 1820s and they had three children.30 Turner¶s mother also taught him at an early age to believe he possessed supernatural powers.. Nat lost his second master which destroyed any hope he or any other slave may one day be set free. 2006). His will provided the slaves with a devastating blow that Nat¶s mother Nancy and two other servants should remain with Nancy Turner. Nat became a Christian through the instruction of his grandmother. Turner¶s death came early in 1822 as a disturbing event for most of his slaves.elders.29 However. and mostly read the Bible. Bankston. He was then sold again to a farm owner name Joseph Travis in 1831. 1970). the executor of Turner¶s estate. Bridget. but Nat and nineteen other slaves were to be sold by James Griffin. African American History (Pasadena: California Salem Press. which experts have never been able to decode.31 After Samuel¶s Turner death Nat¶s family was broken up and sold to different families. 933 28 . An economic depression made things harder for both master and slave. Cherry had concealed coded maps and lists which she helped keep for Nat which he used in his revolt. 196 31 Carl L. Nat¶s mother Nancy deeply religious had instilled in her son a sense of duty to God as well as a hatred of the institution of slavery.
killing all whites. He became deeply religious. on their way to Jerusalem. 1997). In his own mind he had been ordained like the prophets of old to perform a special mission. with the exception of one very poor white family. Between 1825 and 1830. In the early hours of August 22. which had now grown to include two additional men. Mungazi. there was an eclipse. which Turner took as another sign. Turner had a vision in which he saw black and white spirits fighting. He professed that God communicated with him through voices and signs in the heavens.of Thomas Moore. but as the time approached.35 It came on August 13. Nat Turner had met once more with his small group. and so another sign was sought. when a bluish-green haze covered the sun. the group traveled from house to house. his wife and child. Turner and his inner circle met at the home of Joseph Travis and killed Travis. and two students.36 For the next forty hours. William. telling them of his plans to stage a revolt on the fourth of July 1831. Turner gained respect as a traveling neighborhood preacher. who Turner had baptized Brantley prepared himself for the changes that were about to come. he had another vision calling upon him to fight evil. Turner became sick. and within twenty-four hours hundreds of soldiers had Bankston 934 Bankston 935 34 Dickson A. Brantley.33 In 1825. 56 35 Mungazi 56 36 Andrew L. Turner¶s men were attacked by a group of armed whites. The Oxford Companion to African American Literature ( New York Oxford University Press(US). The day after the Travis killings. The Journey to the Promised Land: The African American Struggle for Development Since the Civil War (Westport Connecticut: Praeger.32 Nat Turner thought of himself as an instrument of God. 739 33 32 . Nat and his followers had executed at least fiftyseven white people. they set forth. At that point. fasting and praying in privacy. he spoke to four friends. Armed only with hatchet and a broadax. 2001). Three years later.34 In February 1831. Nat had communicated this knowledge to a local white man name Etheldred T.
The last two of Nat¶s fellow friends were hung upon the appointed day with him. 38 At this time a large crowd of people gathered in Jerusalem that day. two daughters and eight other school children. Carr Bowers. at ten in the morning.37 Nat Turner managed to hide out but was captured six weeks later. He had recognized many of the blacks. where he was interviewed for three days by six of the county¶s justice¶s whose names were Jeremiah Cobb. Nat was escorted through the mob of people to the courtroom. and he watched them for some time while hiding in a plum orchard. Turner¶s forces became disorganized and scattered. November 5. However. The next day he was taken to the county jail. had been killed at his place. He stated that Nat was in command and he exercised his authority to force the blacks to commit those crimes and follow him. Samuel Hines and Orris A. including his wife.spread out across the countryside of Virginia in search of Nat and his followers. November 11. and it was ordered by the sheriff to guard Nat for fear anyone would attempt to help try to free him. Parker. Browne who came together on Saturday. James W. Billy Artis.39 Eleven persons. The chief Magistrate Jeremiah Cobb asked Nat if he had anything to say and if he knew any cause sentence of death should not be passed upon him. Thomas Pretlow. He had been one of the principal witnesses in Nat¶s previous trails. The execution was ordered to be held Friday. The first witness was Levi Waller. a free black.40 No evidence was presented in behalf of Nat and his case was submitted without argument. and of these seventeen were executed and twelve were transported. had committed suicide before he could be taken 37 38 William 740 Johnson 147 39 Johnson 147 40 Johnson 147 . During the trials Fifty-three blacks had been arraigned.
but the body Nat was not so honored.42 The people were unprepared for further alarms. a second free black.43 The Southampton murders had created a horrible suspicion of the entire black race. the general facts of the Southampton County insurrection had been made know by the press when eastern North Carolina was shaken by reports of bloody uprisings of its own. Some of the plots turned out to be real. was to be hanged on May 11. and the penalty of death was allowed for blacks. two cities Wilmington and Raleigh were put under martial law.41 All of Nat¶s followers were given a decent burial. In addition blacks were forbidden of the ability to learn to read or write. 1832. and to arm and equip 41 42 Johnson 149 Johnson 150 43 Johnson 151 44 Jonson 161 . The state of uncertainty was so unnerving that people in areas which had large black populations were justified in reappraising the loyalty of the long trusted servants and was considering the possibility of their being led to disaffection.1831. and the danger which accompanied the reports of new revolts and the threats of others. but the bloodshed was limited to execution and lynching of several blacks.up. However. and these sent a wave of fears rolling to new heights across many parts of the black community. Instead. Nat¶s body was turned over to the surgeons for dissection. The North Carolina General Assembly of 1830-31 was convinced of the seriousness of the threat. and Berry Newsum.44 The Governor of the North Carolina General Assembly name Stokes told the Assembly on November 22. that restrictive legislation had not produced the desired effect. Therefore. and he recommended establishment of a more efficient and accountable police. for legislation was passed which prohibited any slave or free slave from preaching if caught the pain of thirty-nine lashes.
and those who would become free. whether he or she shall have been ordained or licensed.00 in 1830 would go for about $ 1. a black assaulting a white person with intent to kill could be executed without benefit of clergy. was permitted to attend services with the whites or in the day to be addressed in their own assemblies by a licensed white preacher. shall not be allowed to preach. Thirdly.45 Black however. or mulatto. free black. or otherwise. the more important topic in the legislation was the open debate on slavery in the General Assembly. The free blacks were prohibited to possess weapons. conduct or hold any assembly meeting.militia and volunteer companies in each county. The debates produced a resolution in the House of Delegates which was interpreted to mean the following: first that it was not expedient during the session of the House of Delegates to legislate on abolition. and no free black was to sell liquor within one mile of a public assembly.48 Meanwhile emancipationist societies disappeared from the South and 45 46 Johnson 163 Johnson 164 47 Johnson 164 48 Johnson 165 . 1832 they had revised the code to further restrict the liberties of the blacks.46 In Virginia. No one was to sell liquor or purchase it from a slave. A slave whom sold for $ 400. for religious or other purposes. that humanity and policy in the first place. A rise in slave prices was making slaves more desirable.100 in 1837. either in day or at night under a penalty of thirty-nine lashes. that the black population of Virginia. Before the General Assembly adjourned on March 21. due to the increased demand for slaves in the southwestern states. demanded the removal of the free. was a great evil. It was provided that no slave.47 Secondly. The debates major issue was the growing sectionalism within the state among the small non slaveholding farmers of the west and the large planters of the east.
Some Southampton County blacks apparently did not understand fully the true nature of the Nat Turner insurrection. he cut the man¶s heel strings and left him.49 Restless spirits of white and black victims are said to have swarmed over the Francis plantation.increased both in numbers and militancy in the North. Instead. was later made a guard over one of the captives. and at times they could be heard reenacting their bloody struggle. but he refused to do so. But the most arresting fact is that from the troubled year of 1831 to the Civil War of how the slave plots became conspicuously less noticeable.52 49 50 Johnson 167 Johnson 176 51 Johnson 181 52 Johnson 182 .51 The alarms came so unfailingly in August that eventually the fearful people were said to have developed August madness.50 After the 1831 Southampton County massacre the people of this and neighboring counties were especially apprehensive upon the arrival of each August the time of unrest and the time of insurrection. Burrell Jones. It was said that some of the slaves participating in the revolt were so ignorant that they left the gold because they did not know its value but they took the silver which was the common exchange. whose daughter Lucinda had been killed by the insurrectionist at the Waller¶s School. Time and again reports of uprisings came and the whites together with their trusted blacks rushed to the swamps where they remained until the scare was over. A friend sought to have Jones kill the black.
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