History Lessons of Truth (Part 1): Nat Turner – A True Revolutionary Slave

Nat Turner's mini uprising against his white masters is ended by his capture

Let me begin this post with a relevant quote:

“Everyone falsifies history even if it is only his own personal history. Sometimes the falsification is deliberate, sometimes unconscious; put always the past is altered to suit the needs of the present. The best we can say of any account is not that it is the real truth at last, but that this is how the story appears now.”

~ Joseph Freeman

What more can be said regarding the teaching of history to the masses – I have to agree with Joseph to some extent.  Well, let me start this series with a dark period of humankind’s history:  The Slave Trade.

Personally, I feel that this subject is not taught enough in Western schools (especially in the UK) when compared to the constant exposure, through the media and education, of the Jewish Holocaust (which in it’s own rights is perhaps as bad as African slavery – although slavery lasted over 200 years with many millions of blacks being tortured or killed in the process) during World War II.  It’s plain to see, that the subject of black slavery has been all but forgotten in the minds and conscience of those who disseminate knowledge to the rest of us.

Making the children and adults alike become aware of this terrible past would help to make us better understand what lasting affects that slavery may have caused (no matter how little) the later generations of black people, especially in regards today’s disillusioned black youth, who seem to suffer, more than most, from self-destructive problems.

Another important benefit of the teaching of slavery is that it may help in regards race relations by stripping away the many ignorant or racist views that somebody, who is not black, may have against the black culture in general – this would hopefully eliminate that old saying from their psyche “we fear what we don’t understand”.

My only guess for the apparent concealment of this particular moment in history is that maybe the countries who profited from this most heinous of crimes are either embarrassed or, what should be more the case, ashamed of their past actions – or maybe there is another suspect reason.

In any case, there should be no excuse for this exploitative period of evil, which was carried out so systematically by Western powers, not to be included in the curriculum.  These aforementioned powers, made up of white European and Anglo-American imperialists, invaded, plundered and pillaged the African continent, which was most profitable at the time.

It has to be said that these so-called great empires and their citizens would perhaps not be in the privileged position that they now find themselves if it wasn’t for the blood and sweat of captured slaves, and the many bountiful treasures and precious resources that were stolen from the lands of Africa.

A True Revolutionary Against Slavery

A lot has been said about British politician and philanthropist William Wilberforce who championed the magnificent cause towards the abolition of slavery, but little do most of us know that it was actually a black victim of this abomination who was the true revolutionary.

Nat Turner, a deeply religious slave and controversial figure, inspired the first of many rebellions against the white slave masters in 1831.  All it took was for a simmering sense of injustice to boil over and a divine sign for Turner to then carry out his own version of retribution.

This is where the controversy lies with Turner’s choice of vengeance, where he and a few other black slaves that he could muster used any instrument they could find as a weapon of violence.  What followed was a short but bloody episode in which every white man, woman and child that Nat and his small militia came across were not spared, as they were slaughtered mostly in their sleep.

Turner, however, was eventually captured and brutally executed, so to act as a severe deterrent against other would-be “Nats”.

I won’t go too much into the moral questions regarding Turner’s actions, but all I would ask is for you to first put yourself in his chains and mindset.  You may then find that Turner’s violent reaction was most understandable given the desperate circumstances of being stolen from his homeland, and then treated with constant indignity whilst being chained up, worked and beaten like a wild animal.

Some would say Turner was nothing but a violent religious fanatic; and others would argue that he was an inspirational hero for justice and the emancipation of his people.  But despite all that, nobody can deny that this proud, enslaved and religious man had some influence on the rest of the slave population and, eventually, the abolitionists themselves.

“Possession” Award-Winning Nat Turner Short Film

Watch the following video to learn about the forgotten but important story of Nat Turner:

Read part 2 of the series: ‘History Lessons of Truth (Part 2): Untold Black History – The Moors And Black Americans’.

6 Comments

  1. Jason,

    It’s always great to see a new post by you on my Reader.

    I agree with you, on the fact that Slavery is not as mainstream as the Holocaust. HIStory is always perspective. The problem is too many people take what is given and do not delve deeper. I’m glad you’re a deep diver!

    As far as the moral level of the great Nat Turner, this is somewhat perspective also. The fact still remains, as you stated, that he was a catalyst for change.

    This will definitely makes the “links of the week”. Thanks.

  2. Have you read William Styron’s “Confessions Of Nate Turner.” It’s a fictional account of the Turner story, and because it was penned by a “white” man, very controversial at the time. I still think Napoleon nailed it on the head: “History is a myth agreed upon.”

  3. Jason Cooper says:

    Hey Ali,

    Since growing up and going to school in the England, I can’t remember a time where slavery was taught in school, if ever.

    The only reference to slavery I remember was catching a few episodes of the excellent Alex Haley’s TV series ‘Roots’ when I was a young lad – but it’s strange that that particular show has never been shown again since, especially in comparison the many movies, documentaries and rememberance about WW II and the Holocaust year in year out – I don’t think they even released a DVD for such an important event…so they must be a reason why they keep it hidden.

    I just thought I needed to remind a few folks out there about perhaps the most prominent period in history, which should never be forgotten.

  4. Jason Cooper says:

    Hi NP,

    I haven’t read Styron’s book, and I’d probably wouldn’t want to anyway.

    The only problem when men write history is that they will always see it with some bias, which will ultimately corrupt the facts themselves by the end.

    None of us perhaps, unless we were actually there ourselves, can be too sure about what we read in being “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

  5. In the US, slavery is taught in school, but likely just becaue it was a factor in our Civil War. It’s definately not covered to the extent of the Holocaust though. I’d be interested to know how different countries reached an end to slavery and during what time periods these ends occured.

  6. Jason Cooper says:

    Hi Eric,

    Here in UK it’s almost conspicuous by it’s absence. Other than the teaching of slavery in US schools (and I don’t know how exstensive the teaching of it is), is there any yearly events celebrating the abolishment of it? This would help keep this heinous act in our consciences so that we’ll never forget: 1. Where the indigenous black culture came from. and, 2. what evils were committed on the black africans in the pursuit of profit and industry.