Nat Turner: Rebel and Prophet

Historian Anthony E. Kaye and writer/artist Thulani Davis. Photo William Farrington

Historian Anthony E. Kaye and writer/artist Thulani Davis. Photo William Farrington

Nat Turner’s Revolt of 1831 in Southampton, Virginia, is both the best known slave rebellion in American history and the most mysterious. Turner came to believe he was a prophet, but only reluctantly, and he hesitated to launch his rebellion for a decade after he was called by God in a spectacular vision. Meanwhile he wrestled with a prophet’s dilemmas. Turner began his march to Jerusalem (the county seat) with a small neighborhood cadre, yet they killed more people than much larger revolts in the Caribbean.

 

Photo: William Farrington

Photo William Farrington

 

On November 4, a full auditorium joined  Anthony E. Kaye, Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University and writer and artist Thulani Davis, Assistant Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as they engaged in a fascinating conversation placing Nat Turner in a broad context of biblical prophets and African American religion, slave rebels and slave rebellions across the Atlantic world.

An Attentive audience. Photo William Farrington

An Attentive audience. Photo William Farrington

 

Kaye, a historian of slavery and emancipation in the Atlantic world first took an interest in Nat Turner while working on Joining Places: Slave Neighborhoods in the Old South. He is presently the Robert F. and Margaret S. Goheen Fellow at the National Humanities Center where he is researching and writing a book about the Turner revolt, entitled Taking Canaan.

 

 

Photo William Farrington

Photo William Farrington

View the video here

 

For more on Nat Turner:

David F. Allmendinger, Jr. Nat Turner and the Rising in Southampton County

Herbert Aptheker. Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion

Eric Foner, compiler. Nat Turner

Kenneth Greenberg, ed. Nat Turner: A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory

Kenneth Greenberg, ed. The Confessions of Nat Turner and Related Documents

Thomas Gray. The Confessions of Nat Turner

Henry I. Tragle, compiler. The Southampton Slave Revolt of 1831