By Carlito Rovira
Among the many events in African American history that bourgeois historians and apologists of slavery tend to downplay, dread or overemphasize the violence inflicted on white slave-owning families is Nat Turner’s Rebellion of August 21, 1831 in Southampton County, Virginia.
Despite what apologists of slavery may say no uprising in history, motivated by the aspirations of the oppressed to emancipate themselves, has ever been pretty. When the subjugated masses realize that struggle is their only path to freedom there are never guarantees that such an endeavour comes about without bloodshed. Especially because well armed tyrants have never given up peacefully their position of privilege, wealth and power.
Exploiters are always ready and willing to use the most horrific measures in order to maintain a people in bondage; beatings, castration, rape and the murder of children were common practices of slave owners. And such is precisely how the slavocracy intended to preserve its power; unimaginable cruelty was the principle method of maintaining control of enslaved African people.
Nat Turner’s leadership in the heroic attempt by slaves to destroy this vile system is something that should inspire our struggles today as we grapple with the historical consequences of capitalism’s most lucrative creation — African chattel slavery.
The blame for the bloody and not-so-pleasant details of this uprising falls strictly on the beneficiaries of centuries-long Black suffering, the capitalist class. Contrary to racist notions and false interpretations of this event Black people have historically been compelled to use force as a means to liberation. Notions that argue the contrary can only serve to justify the continual degradation and persecution of African Americans.
Nat Turner was an enslaved preacher. According to his supposed and documented “confession” Turner believed that he had received a message from God commanding him to lead the slaves in an uprising against the slave owners.
The desperate circumstances which Black people endured in their horrible experiences makes it a no wonder why the violence that ensued in that uprising was so intense. The audacity of bourgeois historians who judge the extreme methods used by rebellious slaves while minimizing their suffering.
The steadfast determination demonstrated by the slaves in their moment of furor is something that continues to haunt the ruling class and apologists of white privilege, white entitlement and white supremacy.
Although the rebellion was suppressed through bloodshed and torture of all participants, Nat Turner’s efforts, along with the actions led by John Brown at Harpers Ferry in 1859, made widely popular the belief that force was absolutely necessary to destroy the firmly entrenched slave-owning system. Eventually these events paved the way to the Civil War and the overthrow of the Southern slavocracy.
Our embrace and understanding of this event in history should inspire us in the fight against forces that wish to preserve symbols of that ugly period, it’s racist customs, traditions and habits. We do not need to figure out why these same racist forces glorify the vile system of slavery in U.S. history, to justify discrimination and racist violence in the era of modern-day slavery.
Nat Turner merits the noble title of revolutionary fighter in every sense of the word. And when revolution in the United States occurs and grants us the freedom to remove all racist monuments, that should automatically be followed by erecting statues and monuments dedicated to the memory of Nat Turner and other freedom fighters.
LONG LIVE THE MEMORY OF NAT TURNER!
LONG LIVE THE BLACK LIBERATION STRUGGLE!