Friday, March 1, 2013

Leader Created By his Condition

Nat Turner and his men planning rebellion in Southampton County Virginia
Here we are at the end of the month of February and I haven't written any blogs to celebrate the Black History Month. My original plan was to write a blog each day of the month of February about an African American who was either a pioneer or trailblazer in his or her own right. So I decided to write about one of the most controversial figures in American history:  Nat Turner.

Although my blogsite is about leadership, emerging or transformational leaders to be exact, Nat Turner was no doubt a pioneer. He totally changed the way America felt and though about the institution of slavery. According to Lerone Bennett, Jr., author of Pioneers in Protest,

"The man who made his impact on the South was a black slave who has not yet perceived his due in history. He has been presented to history by white authors who libeled him and distorted his deeds. But despite libels and distortions, Nat Turner still sears the subconscious of the nation, because the gaping wound he opened still runs."
Nat Turner reminded America that what we reap we sow. Slavery sowed violence, blood and indignity and Turner was the fruit or seed of the institution of slavery. To understand Nat Turner, you have to understand the most inhumane and brutal slavery in modern history.  The slave master completely owned the slave. Mind, body and soul. And violence was a regular occurrence toward Black people during slavery. Treatment of slaves could range from lashing until his or her flesh torn from the bones, rape, murder, burned alive or dismembered.

In one slave's account, a pregnant woman had her unborn baby cut out of her stomach in front of all the slaves in the slave quarters and the baby was stomped to death.

Born October 2, 1800 in Southampton County, Virginia, Turner believed early in his life that God had ordained him for a great purpose. Nat Turner was intelligent beyond his years. He mother taught him to read and he seemed to be very inquisitive and was always seeking opportunities to improve at all his duties.

As a man, Turner was described as "a mystic with blood on his mind, a preacher with vengeance on his lips, a dreamer, fanatic, a terrorist, Nat Turner was a fantastic mixture of gentleness, ruthlessness, and piety." He was of middle build, black in color, and bold and commanding and respected figure in Southampton County.

During Turner's time, Christianity was used to justify slavery. The slave shall obey the master. This missionary version of Christianity was drilled into the minds of slaves. This repelled Turner. The more he learned about the bible and what it meant, the more he hated the people who taught him Christianity. And the more Nat became convinced that he was supposed to lead his people out of slavery. 

At thirty years old, Nat Turner decided to carry out his plan of slave rebellion. He chose four recruits. Henry, Hark, nelson and Sam. The original plan was to strike on July 4 but Nat became ill. Turner set another date. Sunday, August 21. He recruited two more recruits. Will and Jack. Nat Turner and his recruits carried out their mission ten o' clock that night.The rebellion started

At one point, Turner commanded 60 men, all mounted on horses armed with guns, axes, swords and clubs. They had killed white inhabitants in the country side of Southampton County and was headed to capture Jerusalem, the county seat. That's when Turner and his men made their first mistake. Some of Turner's recruits drank too much cider and became groggy. This threw off their timing.

By this time, soldiers from the federal and state were flocking to Southampton County. Turner and his men were defeated and his men dispersed. Nat gave up, dug a cave and went into hiding. Turner eluded capture for two more months. He was finally seized and brought to Jerusalem. He and the rest of his men were found guilty and hanged. Until the end, Turner was calm and cool. He was convinced what he did was right.

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