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The Confessions of Nat Turner (1831)
- The Confessions of Nat Turner, The Leader of the Late Insurrections in Southampton, Va. As fully and voluntarily made to Thomas R. Gray (1831)
- And my father and mother strengthened me in this my first impression, saying in my presence, I was intended for some great purpose, which they had always thought from certain marks on my head and breast.
- My grand mother, who was very religious, and to whom I was much attached — my master, who belonged to the church, and other religious persons who visited the house, and whom I often saw at prayers, noticing the singularity of my manners, I suppose, and my uncommon intelligence for a child, remarked I had too much sense to be raised – and if I was, I would never be of any service to any one – as a slave.
- The manner in which I learned to read and write, not only had great influence on my own mind, as I acquired it with the most perfect ease, so much so, that I have no recollection whatever of learning the alphabet
- Having soon discovered to be great, I must appear so, and therefore studiously avoided mixing in society, and wrapped myself in mystery, devoting my time to fasting and prayer.
- I was struck with that particular passage which says: "Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven and all things shall be added unto you."
- And about this time I had a vision — and I saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened – the thunder rolled in the Heavens, and blood flowed in streams – and I heard a voice saying, "Such is your luck, such you are called to see, and let it come rough or smooth, you must surely bear it."
- For as the blood of Christ had been shed on this earth, and had ascended to heaven for the salvation of sinners, and was now returning to earth again in the form of dew - and as the leaves on the trees bore the impression of the figures I had seen in the heavens, it was plain to me that the Saviour was about to lay down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and the great day of judgement was at hand.
Quotes about Turner
- Several things are interesting about Nat Turner's doomed, gory rebellion. First, Turner was clearly delusional and yet his response to the madness of slavery was, from our vantage point today, the most sane and heroic of all... The fact that Nat Turner may have been schizophrenic or delusional does not disqualify the inherent political nature of his rebellion. Rather, it suggests that sometimes only someone not mentally healthy- not normal- is capable of rising up against objectively awful injustice. A normal, healthy person finds a way to accept his condition, no matter how wretched. The second most significant feature of Turner's rebellion was the white response. As always, the blame was assigned to unspeakable evil, savage Negroes, outside influences- anything but what was considered normal or inevitable at the time, namely, slavery. An account of the insurrection, "The Banditti," published in the Richmond Enquirer on August 30, 1831, reads, "What strikes us as the most remarkable thing in this matter is the horrible ferocity of these monsters. They remind one of a parcel of blood-thirsty wolves rushing down from the Alps... No black man ought to be permitted to turn a preacher in the country. The law must be enforced or the tragedy of Southampton appeals to us in vain." According to the Enquirer, Turner "was artful, impudent and vindictive, without any cause or provocation, that could be assigned."
- Mark Ames, Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (2005), p. 57-58
- Slave psychology and effective American slave management (which encourages a "cheerful disposition" and "initiative) combined to produce slaves which not only turned on their own liberators to protect their masters, but turned on them in "a fine spirit." Which helps explain why there were so few slave rebellions. Not only were they doomed, and not only were they without context, but so often fellow slaves either refused to participate or worse, exposed plots and defended their masters with arms. These actions further reinforce the notion that a rebellion was not only doomed, but even the idea of rebelling was somehow not normal and perhaps evil. You rally would have to be as crazy and schizophrenic as Nat Turner to not be affected; you'd have to have voices in your head louder than those around you to convince you that a slave rebellion was the right, sane response.
- Mark Ames, Going Postal: Rage, Murder and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplaces to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond (2005), p. 59
- Although they confiscated horses, weapons, and brandy, they took only what was necessary to continue the struggle, and they committed no rapes. They even spared a few homesteads, one because Turner believed the poor white inhabitants "thought no better of themselves than they did of negroes."
- Stephen B. Oates in "Children of Darkness"
- What strikes us as the most remarkable thing in this matter is the horrible ferocity of these monsters.
- A fanatic preacher by the name of Nat Turner (Gen. Nat Turner) who had been taught to read and write, and permitted to go about preaching in the country, was at the bottom of this infernal brigandage. He was artful, impudent and vindicative, after having witnessed the atrocities committed against slaves and himself.
- The Richmond Enquirer (30 August 1831)