Op-EdOpinion

BAILEY: Don’t Forget Nat Turner on Veterans Day

When dealing with Veterans Day in this country, it’s very important for serious Black folks to commemorate Nat Turner, one of our most heroic warriors in the battle against white supremacy/racism. In 1831, when Brother Nat led an insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia, against the enslavement of African men, women and children, enslaving President Andrew Jackson sent in federal troops to help put down that insurrection.

Great journalist/historian Lerone Bennett Jr. provides much valuable, knowledge-expanding information about Brother Nat in his book “Great Moments in Black History.” The following excerpts are from that book:

1) “It was perhaps inevitable that this strange and brilliant slave should turn to religion, which was, in a manner of speaking, the only politics open to slaves. Indeed, there is no more remarkable chapter in the history of slavery than the story of how Nat Turner seized the weapon of Christianity and turned its sharp edge against slaveholding Christians…”

2) “Meanwhile, the situation grew ever so much more complicated. All labor and commerce in Southampton ground to halt. And vast stretches of the countryside were abandoned. Many whites fled their homes, leaving doors and windows opened and gathered in Jerusalem, whose population of 175 swelled to some 600. All this was witnessed by a number of men who left telling descriptions. A local white man, writing from Jerusalem on August 24, said ‘the oldest inhabitants of our country have never experienced such a distressing time, as we have had since Sunday night last. … Every house, room, and corner in this place (Jerusalem) is full of women and children driven from home who had to take to the woods until they can get to this place…” Five days later, a committee of citizens told President Andrew Jackson in a letter of appeal that a federal military presence was necessary…”

3) “The only whites spared on that day were poor whites who owned no slaves. Governor John Floyd said later that the insurgents ‘spared but one family and that was one so wretched as so to be in all respects upon a par with them.’ The same point was made by one of the rebels who said later in his confession that ‘Capt. Nat in passing a house where some very poor people lived said he would not kill them because they thought no better of themselves than they did of the negroes.’ Some whites escaped Nat’s dragnet by hiding in holes or secret places in the homes…”

4) “It was done on Friday, November 11, 1831. Nat was taken from Southampton Jail to a field near the courthouse. Oblivious to the world he was about to leave, Nat walked with head held high to the tree marked for the hanging. ‘Not a limb trembled,’ one witness said. Another witness said ‘he betrayed no emotion but appeared to be utterly reckless in the awful fate that awaited him and even hurried his executioner in the performance of his duty! Precisely at 12 0’clock he was launched into the eternity.’ When Nat was safely dead, his body was dismembered and souvenirs, including wallets, were made from the skin. But this was not, by any means, the end of the affair. Before mounting the gallows, Nat made one last prophecy, saying there would be a storm after his execution and the sun would refuse to shine. And as a matter of fact, there was a storm in Southampton on that day. But Nat spoke a parable and parables should not be taken literally. The storm he saw came in the generation of crisis that was the ultimate result of his act. And that crisis ended — Did Nat see it? — in the rivers of blood that veiled the American sun during the great war that ended slavery.”

That’s why we must commemorate Brother Nat Turner on Veterans Day, November 11, 2021.

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