Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property

Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property


Man: 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. SALLY. [ SCREAMING ] THE MURDER OF THIS FAMILY,
FIVE IN NUMBER, WAS THE WORK OF A MOMENT. THERE WAS A LITTLE INFANT
SLEEPING IN THE CRADLE THAT WAS FORGOTTEN UNTIL
WE HAD LEFT THE HOUSE AND GONE SOME DISTANCE, WHEN HENRY AND WILL
RETURNED AND KILLED IT. Narrator: OVER THE
NEXT 24 HOURS, NAT TURNER LEAD A SMALL GROUP
OF SLAVES FROM FARM TO FARM, KILLING EVERY WHITE MAN, WOMAN,
AND CHILD THEY ENCOUNTERED. THEY GATHERED GUNS
AND MORE RECRUITS DURING A BRIEF BUT BLOODY REVOLT THAT SPREAD TERROR THROUGHOUT
THE SLAVE-HOLDING SOUTH. NAT TURNER WAS CAPTURED
AND HANGED. IN THE DAYS BEFORE HIS EXECUTION HE AGREED TO TELL HIS STORY. BUT AFTER HIS DEATH, HIS WORDS
BECAME THE PROPERTY OF OTHERS, AS HIS BODY WAS DURING HIS LIFE. HIS STORY HAS BEEN CONTINUALLY
RETOLD SINCE 1831. HE HAS BEEN DEPICTED AS A
GREAT AND INSPIRING HERO AND VILIFIED AS AN
INSANE FANATIC. EACH AUTHOR POSSESSES
NAT TURNER, TRANSFORMING HIS IDENTITY AND
THE MEANING OF HIS REVOLT. ALTHOUGH TODAY WE CANNOT CLEARLY
MAKE OUT THE FACE OF THE MAN, HE CONTINUES TO PROVOKE
A BITTER DEBATE OVER THE VIOLENCE
THAT HE INSPIRED. FOR A NATION UNABLE
TO COME TO TERMS WITH THE LEGACY OF SLAVERY, NAT TURNER REMAINS
“A TROUBLESOME PROPERTY.”

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