Just Who Was Rebelling in Nat Turner's Rebellion?Historians in the News
tags: slavery, African American history, Virginia, Nat Turner
The very name “Nat Turner’s Rebellion” suggests it was one revolt, of men, led by one man. Historian Vanessa M. Holden argues otherwise in a new book she’ll discuss in a virtual event Thursday at 6 p.m. (Free; Library of Virginia; register at tinyurl.com/VaRebellion.)
The August 1831 uprising, she writes in “Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community,” was that of an entire community in Southampton County — and understanding it opens new ways of understanding the revolt.
An advance look at Holden’s book suggests her talk will be illuminating. She explores “human geographies” — spaces in which people operated, physical and otherwise. Enslavers, land owners and officials used systems to surveil and control the labor and movement of African Americans. During the revolt, enslaved women passed information and provided sustenance, and were present when whites were murdered. Free women of color created post-rebellion survival strategies. Free and enslaved children, with their mobility, were part of the rebels’ strategy and recruiting. Trial records showed enslavers’ dominance — and Black resistance. And the area’s Black communities preserved the memory of the revolt, and ways of resistance and survival.
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