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Nov 05

Was Slave Rebellion Leader Nat Turner a Freedom Fighter or a Terrorist?

Nat Turner captured in Virginia

On this day in 1831, Nathanial “Nat” Turner, an American slave who led a violent rebellion in Virginia, was tried, convicted and sentenced to death by a court for “conspiring to rebel and making insurrection.” In the rebellion, Turner and several other slaves escaped and formed a group that went house-to-house in Southampton County, Virginia, killing the inhabitant white residents they found, including women and children, and freeing slaves along the way. At the height of the rebellion, Turner had gathered over 70 slaves and free blacks in the area.

After his capture and execution, local vigilantes killed upwards of 200 blacks in¬†retaliation for Turner’s actions. And in a seminal moment in American history, Virginia and other Southern states would also pass laws that restricted the civil rights for both slaves and free blacks and eventually lead to continued and widespread disenfranchisement of African-Americans until well after the conclusion of the Civil War.

Filmmaker Charles Burnett talks about Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion in the following clip from the Ford Hall Forum. Burnett, who directed a documentary about the rebellion leader titled Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property, told an audience why he understands the actions Turner took to extract himself and his fellow blacks from the injustices and brutality of slavery.

Charles Burnett Rationalizes Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion from Ford Hall Forum on FORA.tv

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