Black Rebellion – Five Slave Revolts

Black Rebellion – Five Slave Revolts
by Thomas Wentworth Higgison


Black Rebellion, a fascinating account of five slave insurrections, among them the story of the Maroons, escaped slaves in the West Indies and South America who successfully resisted larger British armies while living an independent existence for generations in the mountains and jungles of Jamaica and Surinam; of Gabriel Prosser, who recruited about 1,000 fellow slaves in 1800 to launch a rebellion throughout Virginia; of Denmark Vesey, an ex-slave, seaman, and artisan, fluent in several languages, who conspired in 1822 to kill the white citizens of Charleston, South Carolina, and take over the city; and of the revolutionary mystic Nat Turner, who in 1831 organized and led the most successful and dramatic slave revolt in North America. The author also describes how whites responded with panic, sweeping arrests, mass executions, and more repressive laws in a futile effort to crush the slaves’ insatiable desire to be free.

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Confessions of Nat Turner

The Confessions of Nat Turner, The Leader of the Late Insurrection in South Hampton, VA.

Nat Turner Rebellion

Nat TurnerPerhaps no other moment in history crystallized the fears of slave owners in the South like the 1831 slave insurrection led by Nat Turner in South Hampton, Virginia. During a span of approximately thirty-six hours, on August 21-22, a band of slaves murdered over 50 unsuspecting whites (Goldman). The exact number of whites killed remains unsubstantiated—various sources claim anywhere from 50 to 65. Almost all of those involved (or suspected of involvement) in the insurrection were put to death, including Nat Turner, who was the last known conspirator to be captured. Following his discovery, capture, and arrest over two months after the revolt, Turner was interviewed in his jail cell by Thomas Ruffin Gray, a wealthy South Hampton lawyer and slave owner (French). The resulting extended essay (summarized below), “The Confessions of Nat Turner, The Leader of the Late Insurrection in South Hampton, VA.,” was used against Turner during his trial. The repercussions of the rebellion in the South were severe: many slaves who had no involvement in the rebellion were murdered out of suspicion or revenge.

William StyronWilliam Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner appeared in October 1967 and won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1968. The novel is based on the true story of a violent slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831, led by a divinely inspired preacher and slave, Nat Turner, whose actual jail-cell “confession” had long been part of the historical record.

With its excruciating violence and its merciless depictions of the degradations and humiliations of slavery, Confessions proved to be as much an “event” as it was a work of literature. It was no doubt the first experience that millions of readers had had with the sickening stories of America’s “peculiar institution.” Surely no history book had ever provided such a visceral narrative, and popular fiction had also steered clear of slavery, with a few notable exceptions, such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published more than 125 years earlier.

Styron’s novel attracted at first the praise of mainstream white critics as well as that of some black writers, notably James Baldwin (a personal friend of Styron’s) and Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man. Baldwin wrote of Styron: “He has begun the common history–ours.”

But the good will began to unravel in the summer of 1968, with the publication of William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, a collection of essays by black historians and other intellectuals. The writers attacked Styron for what they deemed historical inaccuracy and “a vile racist imagination,” but most were simply outraged at the presumptuousness: that a white writer could dare to write so intimately of the black experience. In one of the most measured of the essays, historian (and associate of Dr. King) Vincent Harding takes issue, strongly, with Baldwin’s claim about Styron’s writing “our common history.”

Harding writes:

Surely it is nothing of the kind. Styron has done nothing less (and nothing more) than create another chapter in our long and common agony. He has done it because we have allowed it, and we who are black must be men enough to admit that bitter fact. There can be no common history until we have first fleshed out the lineaments of our own, for no one else can speak out of the bittersweet bowels of our blackness. Only then will we capture Nat Turner from the hands of those who seem to think that entrance into black skin is achieved as easily as Styron-Turner’s penetration of invisible white flesh.

Confessions of Nat Turner

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Black Art Posters|Black Art Prints|Historical Black Art

Buy Black Art Posters and Black Art Prints

Learn Black History through our Historical Black Art Posters & Prints. Each 11×17 Poster features a notable Black History figure and a memorable quote from their life.

Over 500 posters in our collection. These make perfect Black History Month gifts for parents, teachers and motivators.

Click here to see our entire collection of Historical Black Art Prints & Posters

Black History Month Is Right Around The Corner

Black History Month is a month of humanity and celebration, which was set-up to pay tribute to America’s Black citizens and their contributions. It was started in 1926, by Dr. Carter G. Woodson.

Carter G. Woodson

Carter G. Woodson

Originally, it was identified as the Negro History Week and was recognized on every second week of the month of February. Presently, it is recognized during the month of February, all over Canada and the United States. It is also celebrated throughout the United Kingdom during the month of October.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson had studied the African American manner of life and also encouraged more citizens to take an interest in the lessons of their history. He believed it was a requirement for Black people to be informed of and grasp the contributions made by their ancestors.

Dr. Woodson devoted the foremost part of his life to writing, publishing and teaching. He was in addition a prominent political advocate, who had fought hard to make sure that the government accepted and gave African Americans equal rights.

During its start, when Black History Month was identified as “Negro History Week”, it was a week dedicated to celebrating the birthdays of two very important people in the history of the America – Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Frederick Douglass was a former slave turned abolitionist and Abraham Lincoln was the president who ensured slave liberty.

In 1976, “Negro History Week” was renamed “Black History Month”, in celebration of the two hundredth birthday of the nation. It was also changed from a week’s celebration to a month’s celebration.

According to some people, this month of celebration is looked at as an unfair event, which celebrates the history of just one race. Some also say that celebrating African American history and African American achievements brings in a division of races. It is considered an idea that underlines the notion that African Americans are different from Americans.

However, some people also consider it to be an “awakening” and “awareness” cause, which has an important place in society. Such people believe that as long as there is a line of racial discrimination, there will always be a need for the Black History Month.

20th Century Slavery in Mississippi and Louisiana

If you thought the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in 1863 or after the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, you were wrong. Slavery in some parts of the rural south continued; even up to the mid 1960’s.

Many African American were held in peonage throughout the deep south. Under peonage they could not leave the plantations or farms. Their lives were threatened, some were murder for trying to leave. Yes, some may not believe that this could be possible in the 20th century. Throughout the state of Mississippi, in many deep rural area there was no way out for thousand who were trapped in this new slavery called peonage.

Recommended Reading

The Shadow of Slavery: Peonage in the South, 1901-1969

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Neo-slavery in the American South – New America Media Tue, 20 Jul 2010 19:10:00 GMT

Ms. Miller, whose life as a modern slave in Mississippi and Louisiana has been documented, escaped captivity in 1961. The problem exists today, she declares. Ms. Miller, who says she was raped by a slave master beginning

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Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice

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Manufacturer:Free Press

The brutal conditions and inhuman treatment of African-Americans in Southern prisons has been immortalized in blues songs and in such movies as Cool Hand Luke. Now, drawing on police and prison records and oral histories, David M. Oshinsky presents a …

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