- Category: Race & Liberation
- Created on Friday, 17 August 2012 18:23
- Written by Mike Ely
by Mike Ely
Slaveowners in the United States always insisted that "their" slaves were content and obedient. But research has documented at least 250 revolts, both large and small, in the U.S. during slavery times. And much was done to hide their existence. James Madison, the main author of the U.S. Constitution, warned in 1774 that it was best that "such attempts should be concealed as well as suppressed." One of the largest revolts was led by the slave Nat Turner in Southampton County, Virginia during the summer of 1831.
Nat Turner was born on the Virginia farm of Benjamin Turner on October 2, 1800. It is said that his African-born mother so hated slavery that she wanted to kill Nat at birth rather than let him grow up in bondage. These were times marked by an intensifying struggle over slavery. Five days after Nat's birth, the slave leader Gabriel Posser was executed in Richmond, the Virginia state capital. Posser, a blacksmith, had assembled hundreds of slaves on his master's estate on August 30, 1800. He planned to recruit Catawba Indians and poor whites, and capture Richmond. Sudden rain and flash floods caused their defeat.
When Nat was 11 years old, 500 slaves rose up on the Andry plantation in Louisiana. They marched from plantation to plantation gaining strength, until they were defeated by the U.S. Army.
When Nat was 22, a Black freeman named Denmark Vesey organized a conspiracy to seize Charleston, South Carolina, the sixth largest city in the U.S. His organization involved thousands of slaves who stockpiled weapons. Unfortunately, an informer betrayed the conspiracy. Thirty-five people, including Vesey, were hanged. To suppress news of this conspiracy, the authorities even destroyed the records of the trial.
By 1830, tobacco farming had exhausted the soil of Virginia. As Virginia plantations went bankrupt, many slaveowners moved to Georgia, Mississippi or Alabama--where vast lands had recently been stolen from the Creeks, Cherokees and other Native people. Virginia slaves were often "sold down the river" to carve the new cotton plantations out of southern forests. Slave families were broken up. Discontent was intense.