Almost every Black, bloodlust-filled maniac has eventually gotten around to discovering Nat Turner. It’s inevitable. You watch grainy footage of civil rights leaders beaten bloody in the streets. You see still pictures of Blacks hanging from trees. You see depictions of the bottom of slave ships, our ancestors chained and packed like sardines inside them and you think to yourself, “I’m mad! Hasn’t anybody Black ever also been mad? And haven’t any of them ever done anything about it?” Well, yes.
Nat Turner, as any wild-eyed Black person that has ever smiled at the edges of a sharp knife can tell you, was born a slave in Virginia in 1800. His master, Sam Turner, gave him the first name Nat. He took on his master’s surname, as was the way things went in that day.
Nat Turner taught himself to read, he studied the bible and he became convinced that naturally, logically, slavery was wrong. Of course, he was shrewd enough to realize that slave masters were immune to logical arguments. So he decided to take a more direct approach towards Black liberation.
Working with what were initially a few close compatriots, Turner redubbed ‘The Prophet’ by his followers, led the largest and most successful slave rebellion in American history.
Here’s where things get a little tricky. I’ve read at different times that Nat Turner and his group were responsible for the deaths of 53, 55 and today on Wikipedia, 60 white people. However, this older cat that I used to work with argued quite convincingly that Nat Turner and his team were actually responsible for the deaths of over 500 whites. He suggested that the true number would never be reported, as downplaying the success of Turner’s rebellion was akin to suggesting that 1995’s Million Man March had only amassed a total of 400,000 attendees. I must admit, the older cat had a point. I attended the Million Man March. I also took my own headcount. There were 1,247,454 of us!
I just watched Inglorious Basterds and I think the reason that nobody has, of yet, made a Nat Turner movie is because while almost everybody can agree that slavery was wrong, unlike with Nazis, many Americans have a hard time seeing slave owners as evil people that deserved to die. The President of the United States at the time of Nat Turner’s birth, Thomas Jefferson, was a slave owner. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.
Jefferson would be Nat Turner’s Hitler.