Details Of Nat Turner's Rebellion

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As Nat Turner stood on the streets in Southampton, VA he watched many men being killed as hot lead ripped through them. Innocent kids and women were killed, and he stood there and thought to himself, “I saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened—the thunder rolled in the heavens, and blood flowed in streams.” This was absurd news that spread like a wildfire through the new nation, and it was evidenced by newspapers recounting Nat Turner’s Rebellion. Southerners were in a panic and were very scared and mad at the same time. They used front page news articles to inform white slaveholders to be aware of other slaves trying to rise up against their white owners, whereas Northerners were not as affected by it. The only group that it even had a small effect on was the abolitionist group and in newspapers articles about it would be found in small articles only a few lines in the back of the newspaper. This rebellion was the most effective slave rebellion to not only frighten the slave owners, but all white people were concerned and in a panic that at any time they could be killed by an uprising slave.

There were many slave rebellions that occurred before Nat Turner’s famous rebellion that may have had an influence on Nat’s rebellion. There were three slave rebellions that stood out in the research of slave rebellions in the early 1800s. The first slave rebellion took place in Haiti which consisted of many conflicts between 1791 and 1804 between Haitian slaves, the armies of the British and the French colonizers, and several of other parties. The Haitian people won independence from France and then became the first country to be founded by former slaves. The next rebellion that was researched was known as Prosser’s Rebellion, led by Gabriel Prosser, who was a educated enslaved blacksmith who planned a large slave rebellion in Richmond during the 1800. Information about the revolt was leaked before his execution, and he and twenty-five other people who were suspected to be involved were taken captive and hanged in punishment. In reaction, Virginia and other state legislatures passed restrictions. The most recent rebellious act that occurred in 1829 was the David Walker’s Appeal. This appeal brought attention to the abuses and awfulness of slavery and the responsibility of individuals to act towards the religious and political principles. Walker gave out a strong motivation on the abolitionist movements and rebellions of his day and inspired many to become black leaders. The appeal was a big influence for black unity in the fight against the oppressive and unjust slavery. These three slave rebellions were some of the first acts that took place for slaves, and they could have had a strong influence on Nat Turner’s rebellion.

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Rebellious acts were always lead by revered men who were respected and strong and known to be very religious and Nat Turner was just that. Nat Turner was born into slavery on October 2, 1800, on a plantation in Southampton County, Virginia. It was known to be a very religious county. Nat Turner’s rebellion consisted of many motives, but one that had the most impact on him and the reason for the rebellion was the religious impact. He was a preacher and religion was an immense part in his life, and everything he did was through Christ himself. Everything that Nat Turner did was because of the spirit and because of the spirit talking to him. One day, he said he ran away from his plantation for 30 days and then returned to be with the other slaves because the spirit told him, “For he who knoweth his Master’s will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes, and thus, have I chastened you” which meant to him, I had my wishes directed to the things of this world, and not to the kingdom of Heaven, and that he should return to the service of my earthly master. A verse that Nat Turner lived by was “Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven and all things shall be added unto you” which means Jesus has just told his followers not to worry about material things such as food or clothing, as God will provide the needs of his followers. Nat Turner told his lawyer that this was what the spirit said to him one day when he was praying and was the verse that is why it was his motive for the rebellion. Nat Turner said that his reason for the rebellion and murders were to shock “Fear and Terror and Alarm” into the lives and communities of the whites.

As a young man, Nat Turner led a group of slaves to rise up against white slave owners. The white town defeated Turner, and he was later hanged. They also talk about the reactions of slaves and how they did not focus on Nat Turner as much as the did of the panic of the whites and how they started killing innocent blacks because they were scared and the suppression of black preachers in churches due to the rebellion. The rebellion came to an end after two days of killing and hiding, and around 3000 militiamen killed about 100 or more black people that they thought were suspected as rebellion slaves. Nine of the thirty slaves were arrested and executed and the rest along with 300 other Southampton, VA slaves were exiled to Liberia in Africa. After the rebellion was stopped, Nat Turner escaped the custody of the militia and ran away for sixty days. He was then was caught and captured, and eventually hanged on November 11, 1831. All of these murders and hangings just goes to show how brutal and awful these rebellions can get with several casualties and families being torn apart.

On November 9, 1831, Nat Turner was put on trial in a courtroom in Jerusalem, and just before he was executed he talked to his lawyer. Before Nat Turner was executed he was on trial and a lawyer that goes by Thomas Gray sat in the Jerusalem jail cell with Nat Turner trying to understand Nat’s motives and actions of why he did the rebellion. The court and the public didn’t believe it when it came out saying that Nat Turner didn’t say any of this because it is to Intellectual and educated for it to be Nat because he is not educated and doesn’t deserve that kind of educated persona. The main question that kept popping up was how much of it was Turner’s confession, and how much of it was made up by the lawyer who is known to be a racist and a white slaveholder in the south. These rebellions couldn’t go far because they had very little participants, weapons, and organization. The only way a rebellion against slavery could be successful was if the government aided the slaves, which meant the government would be in control. The only way the government would support the abolition of slavery and rights for blacks as if they had something to gain from it, and if an insurrection occurred in which they had no control over, they made sure to shut it down with excessive force, as they did with Turner’s rebellion. From the point of view of a white southerner during the Southampton Tragedy, and he tells us how that the white people turned their anger towards all the free blacks in southern Virginia and North Carolina killing all black peddlers and preachers saying that they are the reason that other slaves would have known to come join the rebellion because they are the only free blacks that are educated enough to be capable of doing that. The panic and fear that was spreading through the south which led many white people to do things that they would have never thought they would have to do but they took the precautions that they thought were necessary.

The reaction in the North was not as much as you would expect about this slave rebellion. They would only use a small bit of newspaper to talk about the Nat Turner rebellion they would focus more on political controversies. A newspaper from Richmond, Indiana talked for only a short article of the rebellion and it just goes to show how little that the rebellion was brought up in the Union as just a little section of the newspaper was given for Nat Turner’s rebellion. The only newspaper paper up North that would actually pay attention to this rebellion would be the abolitionist press. The reactions from people in the North would only be mild criticism about slavery. No real attention was brought to the North by the rebellion it did not affect them as bad as we think it would. An abolitionist newspaper in Boston, Massachusetts known as the Liberator argued that Turner should be remembered as an abolitionist hero, comparable to George Washington and other heroes of the American Revolution. In 1836, a contributor named only as “L” argued that not only should Nat Turner be celebrated as a military leader like Washington, but that his cause was even more extreme then they thought. Nat Turner was a revered man in the eyes of the north and abolitionist he was known as a patriot to them he was a hero for standing up for what he believed in and making a stand for it.

Newspapers were the fastest and most efficient way to reach a bunch of people and inform them in little time so newspapers were a great help in spreading the word and informing people. In many newspapers in the south like the Richmond Enquirer, they would portray him as a monster and would ask we he never would spare the lives of the women or children that is the reason why they call him a monster. The Virginia governor made proclamation that offered a reward of Five-Hundred dollars for the capture of Nat Turner and giving a brief physical description. The article paints a picture of a man who had lived a life of hardships, he had scars on his temple and neck and a large knot on one of the bones of his right arm, near the wrist, produced by a blow. Though its purpose is only to give a sketch of Turner’s physical appearance, the advertisement also gives us insight into how Turner might have been perceived by his contemporaries. This goes to show how the South thought about these slaves and what they say they look like to them and how they would describe them in such a poor way.

Newspapers in the South would try to make slaves seem awful and very ignorant and would tell them that they are dangerous so any blacks you see you may kill if necessary. Southern Newspapers would also give information by saying that Nat Turner was “so miserably ignorant” for thinking that he could take over that town of Southampton with the few men he had. The south press also would give the people false information by saying that Turner tricked the slaves and free blacks that stood with him through the attack by saying he was a religious prophet to make them follow him into war. A white man sent out a note to the newspaper that said “The insurrection of the blacks have made tremendous disturbance here every man is armed with a gun by his bed at nights and in the field at work a vast amount of the blacks have been shot there heads taken off and stuck on poles at the forks of roads some been hung” This just goes to show how most whites never thought that slaves would ever do this so when it happened there reaction was a panic and lead to awful things. “Some awaiting their trial in several County, 6 in this county I expect to see them stretch their trial next week there is no danger of their rising again here’ was written in a letter from a man named Nelson Allyn from North Carolina which he described the retaliation. against African Americans in this letter. He also described the reactions of the south and what they did to try and make a stand to the slaves by telling us what they would do to then once they killed them. This is what he was all seeing from his point of view of a white man following the rebellion.

There were many laws and restrictions they were created against free blacks because of Nat Turner’s rebellion and how much it scared the whites of slave uprisings that could follow. The Virginia legislature was actually thinking about ending slavery but then decided not to and then only put more restrictions and laws about slavery and not having black people be preachers or be able to come together in groups or learn how to read and write. State legislatures passed new laws prohibiting the education of slaves and free blacks. They also restricted many things, for example, they restricted the rights of assembly and also required white ministers to be present at all worship services. A set of laws called the “Black codes” were restrictive laws designed to limit the freedom of African Americans and ensure their availability as a cheap labor force after slavery was abolished during the Civil War. Though the Union victory had given some 4 million slaves their freedom, the question of freed blacks’ status in the postwar South was still very much unresolved. Under black codes, many states required blacks to sign yearly labor contracts; if they refused, they risked being arrested, fined and forced into unpaid labor. These sets of laws were the main reason for the 14th amendment to be passed by the government. Instead of ending slavery they decided to add more laws thinking that it would stop them from doing uprisings and rebellious acts but only made the slaves furious by all the restrictions they now faced.

This rebellion was the most effective slave rebellion to not only frighten the slave owners in the south but to shock all white people who were concerned and in a panic that at any time they could be killed by an uprising slave. There were many slave rebellions that occurred before Nat Turner’s famous rebellion that may have had an influence on Nat’s rebellion. These three slave rebellions were some of the first acts that took place for slaves, and they were the Haitian Rebellion, The Prosser’s Rebellion, and David Walker’s Appeal. It talks about the reactions of slaves and how they did not focus on Nat Turner as much as the did of the panic of the whites and how the whites started killing innocent blacks because they were scared and the suppression of black preachers in churches due to the rebellion. People in the south around this time always were made to think that holding slaves was safe and nothing bad could ever come from it until these slave rebellions started to happen frequently. When all these rebellions acts started to happen they were in a shock because in their minds slaves liked it and would never want to fight back. So when it they started fighting back it was a shock to the south and sent them into panic all to the extraordinary rebellious act of Nat Turner and his braveness and courage.  

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