Tag: Appeal

February 13 Nat Turner

 

This Black History Month I’m Grateful for   Nat Turner

 

 

"I heard a loud noise in
the heavens, and the Spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was
loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men,
and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time was
fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first…
And by signs in the heavens that it would make known to me when I should
commence the great work, and until the first sign appeared I should conceal it
from the knowledge of men; and on the appearance of the sign… I should arise
and prepare myself and slay my enemies with their own weapons."

 

-Nat Turner

 

 

Nat Turner was one of the scariest men in American history. He
was perceived in his time as an unparalleled threat to American slavery and
White supremacy. Turner’s attempt at creating a slave rebellion forced the
South into an unprecedented series of responses and helped pave the way for the
Civil War.

 

 

Nat Turner was a slave preacher who was convinced that he
was chosen to be a Moses for his people. His desire to free Blacks from slavery
erupted into the most violent American slave rebellion of the 19th
century.  Turner’s followers killed
around sixty Whites and it took military action to subdue then execute Turner.
This short burst of violence had dramatic long term consequences for this
country.

 

 

For decades, slave holders had manufactured the image of the
“happy darky”, proclaiming that Blacks were happy as slaves because servitude
suited their temperament. The increase of Black Christianity during the Second
Great Awakening reinforced the notion that slave owners were involved in a
process of civilizing their slaves, to the good of all. Turner’s use of the
Biblical story of Exodus to proclaim liberty for his people was a rude
awakening for the country and, for many, began disabusing the happy darky image
for good. Of course, the value of Christianizing slaves was also questioned.

 

 

In the backlash to Turner’s insurrection, southern Whites
imposed incredibly harsh restrictions on both slaves and free Blacks. In this
climate, many Blacks lost their rights to have independent church services, own
guns and work for hire. For Blacks, reading, learning to read and teaching
others to read became criminal offenses. This wasn’t the only possible outcome
though. In Virginia, the governor talked about abolishing slavery in the state.
The state legislature even voted on a bill that would have set that process in
motion. It is clear that only the fear of additional rebellions prompted such
public consideration of abolition.

 

 

When Virginia failed to end slavery, the abolitionist
movement across the country became increasingly convinced that the South would
never end slavery voluntarily. It is this fact that began radicalizing
anti-slavery forces some twenty years before Uncle Tom’s Cabin put a
sympathetic face on slaves. The prospect of violence as the necessary solution
to slavery began with David Walker’s Appeal but became a thought provoking
reality because of Nat Turner. His insurrection helped prompt Bloody Kansas,
John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry and ultimately, the Civil War itself.

 

 

Today I am grateful for Nat Turner. You should be too.

 

 

FDO

 

 

 

February 3 David Walker

 

This Black History Month I’m Grateful for David Walker

 


". . .they want us for their slaves, and think nothing
of murdering us. . ."


-David Walker

 

 

I know less about David Walker than any other person I’ll
write about this month. That’s in part because he died in 1830 and largely
because there are very few historical records concerning him. We know that he
was a free Black man who died at only 35 and under mysterious circumstances.
Even now, Walker’s contributions to the US are subtle and have generally been
condemned when noticed. That’s because David Walker was scary!

 

Walker’s main contribution to American life was his Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World.
The Appeal was the clearest possible
call for a violent revolt overthrowing slavery. It is not coincidental that Nat
Turner’s revolt followed soon after the Appeal nor is it coincidental that the
rights of free Blacks were limited in response to Walker.

 

While all these
individual elements were largely negative, Walker forced everyone in the
country to recognize the possibility that there would never be a strictly political
solution to slavery. Instead, while America crafted political agreements like
the Missouri Compromise that divided the country into slave and free regions,
some in the country were willing to force America toward change.

 

In some important senses, Walker’s descendants include
Turner, John Brown, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. All these men
eventually concluded that only violence would end the scourge of slavery in
America. Unlike those others, however, Walker remains marginalized in American
history. His early, prophetic vision of America’s future process did not come
to pass exactly as he imagined. Fortunately, much of his vision of America’s possibility
did.

 

Today I am grateful for David Walker. You should be too.

 

 

FDO