Nat Turner

Posted on Posted in Main Blog, On The Shoulders Of Giants, Southern Griot
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Born October 2, 1800 in Southampton County, Virginia, Nat was the son of slaves who belonged to the slave owner Benjamin Turner. He was sold many times but never left Southampton County. He did however; often lose the ones closest to him because of the frequent separations. Nat was raised by his mother and grandmother after his father reportedly ran to freedom.  In 1809 Benjamin Turner loaned Nat and his mother to his son Samuel Turner to work his land. After Benjamin died, Samuel inherited both Nat and his mother as his property. At the age of 12 Nat was working as a field hand. In 1822 he married a woman named Cherry, but was later separated from his wife and mother when Samuel Turner died. After the death of Samuel, Nat was sold to Thomas Moore, after the death of Moore he was the property of a 9 year old boy named Putnam Moore whose mother married Joseph Travis, who then gained control of Nat in 1829.

Even as a young man Nat was recognized for his exceptional brilliance, it was stated that; “Nat would never be of any service to any one as a slave,” that–as his parents had drummed into him–he was “intended for some great purpose” (Turner, Confessions). Nat was one of the few slave children who were taught to read; as he got older he began to preach to the other slaves at the clandestine religious meetings. In 1827, he was picked to baptize a white overseer named Etheldred T. Brantley. As his teen years passed he continued to lose those closest to him by separation. He also continued to work as a field hand.

May 12, 1828 Nat had a vision; this vision led him to believe that God chose him to lead an uprising against the white slave masters. Nat recruited fellow field hands, free blacks, and church members to stand beside him. In 1831 they planned a rebellion that was forced to be rescheduled to a later date. August 22, 1831 in the early hours of the morning marked the beginning of the rebellion. They began with the Travis plantation and killed Putnam Moore, his father, his mother Sally, and more than 50 other whites that night. Nat’s men were later captured by a coalition of local patrol men, vigilantes, and members of the Army and Navy. His men were tried, convicted and executed or transported out of Virginia.

Sunday October 30, 1831 Nat was caught hiding in the woods less than two miles from the Travis Plantation. On November 5, 1931 he was tried and convicted of “conspiring to rebel and making insurrection.” Six days after the trial he was hanged to death in Jerusalem, Virginia. Nat Turner is often depicted as a terrorist and a violent killer, but I say he was a freedom fighter, a man fighting for his rights as a human being. He was a brave leader who was willing to stare oppression in the face and conquer it. I say we should celebrate Nat Turner, and view him as an example of courage and freedom. Mr. Nat Turner, we proudly stand on your shoulders.

 J.A. Ward.

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