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Nat Turner Rebellion

Nat Turners rebellion of 1831 is also commonly known as the Southampton insurrection and it is named after the place where it took place. During this rebellion the slaves killed about sixty whites before it could be successively contained. This slave rebellion was masterminded by a slave known as Nathaniel Turner from Southampton, a region where black slaves were more than the white and is known to be the bloodiest rebellion in the history of United States. Nat claimed that he was inspired by God to liberate all African Americans from the shackles of slavery.

At first the slaves had defeated the whites but a few days later the rebellion was suppressed. During this time blacks had no say and there were no other means they could have used to express their grievances. This essay is going to dig deeper into this issue and try to establish whether Nat Turner and his fellow slaves were under any circumstance justified to rebel against the whites by using violence. At the end of this paper there is a conclusion which is basically a recap of all the key points.

The very last page contains a list of all the resources that have been used properly formatted in accordance with MLA style requirements. Because of the way the black people in America were dehumanized by the whites, there was high degree of antagonism and tension that prevailed between the two groups. These tensions sometimes ended up into direct resistance although no rebellion was ever successful in America. Rumors of resistance and open defiance of the orders from the white masters were very common at this time and these put fear in planter’s minds.

Planters would never feel secure around these slaves as they could do anything to eliminate them. To avoid the salves from meeting as a group, their movements were closely monitored by white patrol guards. Their dwelling places were also frequently inspected to ensure that they possessed no weapons. Again they were not allowed to have any access to information because the whites believed that they would be enlightened something that would affect their productivity because they would resort to revolts.

To ensure that the whites were protected from being assaulted by the blacks, there was passed legislation that ensured that all the whites were well armed all the times even on Sunday while in church. Any white American who was caught unarmed in South Carolina in 1739 was subject to a fine for violating this law. (Bergad 78-79) In the southern colonies slaves were not treated like human beings and would be misused and exploited by plantation owners. The slaves tried to express their displeasure by organizing and staging various kinds of rebellion in a bid to put an end to this but their resistance was met with unmatched brutality.

There was also a passive resistance carried out by slaves such as stealing, destroying farm tools, destroying crops, work slowdowns faking illnesses and poisoning animals. Despite the fact that slaves were not allowed to assemble, there were conspiracies and they would secretly meet and plan how they would attack plantation owners but most of these plans never materialized because slaves would refuse to participate as planned for fear of being killed or some would give away their secret plan to the masters. The whites in response to this would capture all the said leaders and execute them immediately without further investigations.

The whites would also sell slave leaders to other planters so as to instill fear among them so that they would be loyal and submissive to them. (Horton, J. Oliver and Horton, Loise 56) A good example of the rebellions that were staged by the blacks was for example that of 1831 which was orchestrated by Nat Turner, a slave preacher. He inspired other slaves to fight for their rights proclaiming that he received the message from above. The rebellion did take place but it never materialized as it was met with brutality of the highest order by the whites.

Although they lost, they had a reason to smile about because they killed about seventy whites and proved to the world that they could do something if pressed too far. “Although his rebellion ultimately failed, it forever affected slavery and race relations throughout the country and helped lead to the civil war” (Asante et al 351) Turner’s rebellion was not the first in Southampton as there was another attempt to rise against the whites but the efforts proved futile. Turner was very intelligent since he was young and carried out various experiments to test his abilities.

His body had scars and congenital bumps which according to an African culture meant that he would become a great leader. It was commonly known that Turner was extraordinary talented and his fellow slaves believed that he possessed supernatural powers. This was a belief that was shared by the whites because they knew that he was not an ordinary slave in terms of talents. He used the bible to support his arguments that before humans would look for other things, they would first of all seek God. He kept wondering why he was born a slave and yet God had chosen him to be a leader.

He even once contemplated to run away from his master and hid in swamps for three days only to resubmit himself to his master claiming that God had ordered him to go back. (Bergad, 248-49) Turners claimed that he would talk with God directly for example he would say that he saw, “Bloody flowing in streams, representing the hands of Jesus on the cross; and black and white spirits struggling in battle” (Asante 351). Using his oratorical and organizational skills together with other slaves mobilized the blacks to rebel against white’s supremacy.

This was in response to the fact that 50 percent of all people in Southampton were enslaved. Much of what is known about this rebellion is from the confessions he made after he was captured. Considering himself as a divine messenger, it was his obligation to lead people to freedom not that himself was mistreated by his master but the thing was that his people were suffering in the hands of the whites. When the rebellion finally took place, the word spread in the whole region like bush fire and appropriate measures were taken without further ado.

The whites mobilized their officers to check the spread for example some were borrowed from North Carolina and Virginia while other were dispatched from Washington by the federal government. The number of the whites surpassed that of the blacks which was remotely scattered in the region. Rampage, violence vengeance and torture ensued when the two crashed; the innocent slaves were not spared either. Turner was lucky enough to escape the wrath of the whites although he was captured sometimes later after staying underground for long.

(Bergad, 249) Turner with his accomplices marked the beginning of the rebellion in late August 1831 when they attacked Travis plantation one early morning where five whites were killed giving them a chance to steal guns and ammunitions. They carried all the weapons they needed and equipped other slaves who patiently waited for them at the barn before they would descend on the next plantation. Where they attacked there, they freed the enslaved individuals who automatically became part of their army making their number fifteen.

They did this over and over again killing any white American who stood on their way and by thus doing their army kept on increasing and by midmorning in the same day the rebels had an army of forty men. They gained more weapons, soldiers and other war materials and by late afternoon their army consisted of sixty insurgents. Having been a successful day to them, they stopped at the outskirts of Jerusalem so that they would recruit more slaves but unfortunately they were intercepted by the white forces and a fight ensued.

The white militia out numbered Turner’s and for this reason he was defeated and his army sought refuge in the woods. Turner stayed there for sometimes and later went back to Travis plantations where he dug a hole which turned to be his home for the next six weeks. Others who were not killed were captured and taken to court pending charges for being in a conspiracy to rebel against the whites and killing their masters. After their cases were heard, many were jailed while more than 50 slaves were hanged.

Efforts were made after this rebellion by the blacks but all the pleas fell on white’s deaf ears instead firm laws were enacted to prevent future uprising and repressive laws were passed to curtail free movement of the colored and meetings were abolished whether they were meeting for religious purposes or otherwise. According to Pike, although Turner’s rebellion did not meet its objectives, it served as a wake up call to other slaves who staged similar rebellions although they were quickly suppressed. Turner’s rebellion opened a rebellion spree and many whites perished.

The whites lynched, tortured and horribly murdered slaves whether innocent or guilty in response to the wake of rebellions. Other cities like North Carolina and Virginia were put on high alert that similar fate might happen. In my opinion use of revolutionary means to confront slavery seemed to be the only remaining option because there was no room for dialogue or other means of resolving the statement. The whites were using punitive means to suppress any move that was indicative of resistance for example one would be sold to other planters thus breaking family bonds while others would be killed on mere suspicion of participating.

The whites were well aware that they mistreated their slaves and that is how they wanted the situation to be so that there would be total submissiveness. There were other attempts that never bore fruits so if they wanted to resolve this issue they would have striked a dialogue between slaves and themselves. As Martin Luther king Junior once said, freedom is not willingly given by the oppressors but must be demanded by the oppressed so they had to use whatever means in their disposal to achieve their objectives.

Use of violence is not the only way to solve problems but is used when all other options seem not to work and this was the situation in Southampton where other means such as diplomacy and dialogue had no place. Legal action would also have worked if it was given a chance but obvious it was not an option because the law allowed the slaves to be exploited. Escaping from the hands of the masters was also equally dangerous as staging a rebellion as once you would be caught you would be killed so the only remaining option was to use violence as a means to an end.

Nat’s rebellion is said to be the bloodiest rebellion in the history of United States and was geared towards freeing the slaves from shackles of slavery. Nat claimed that he was inspired by God to liberate all African Americans from the hands of the whites. Many innocent slaves were killed in an effort to crash the rebellion. The slaves did not achieve their objective fully but all in all the shown the whites that they were not satisfied with the way they were treated.

The rebellion also acted as a challenge to other slaves in different places and responded in the same way somethi8ng that instilled fear in the whites who responded by killing many of them. Works Cited: Asante, M. K and Mazama, A. Encyclopedia of Black Studies SAGE, 2005 Bergad, L. The Comparative Histories of Slavery in Brazil, Cuba, and the United States. Cambridge University Press, 2007. Horton, J. Oliver and Horton, Lois E. Slavery and the Making of America. Oxford University Press US, 2004 Pike J. Nat Turner’s Rebellion of 1831. 2008. Available at http://www. globalsecurity. org/military/ops/turner. htm

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