When American Revolution is discussed, the “accepted” PSE (Photosensitive Epilepsy) inducing Kaleidoscope of images include, mostly white minutemen, frontier fighting tactics, powdered wigs, long coats and muskets. These images are ingrained in the collective psyche of America as a nation. What is less known is that America had many mini-revolutions that are not taught or discussed in most classrooms or in most public spheres. One of these revolutions was planned for the same day and in as righteous a cause as the one championed by the minutemen army of Washington and Lafayette.
When Alexis DE Tocqueville, the French political theorist and historian, landed in NY in 1831, for a nine month tour of the US, Nat Turner, a Black Slave, was planning a revolution for the Fourth of July of the same year in Virginia. Tocqueville predicted, “If ever America undergoes great revolutions, they will be brought about by the presence of the black race on the soil of the United States.” He went on to add, “They will owe their origin, not to the equality, but to the inequality of condition.”
How prescient, indeed!
These fantastic and most American of Revolutions (incorrectly labelled Rebellions), have been set aside and treated differently from the “American” Revolution of 1775–1777 against the British overlords. It is time to treat hundreds of these revolutions in the same category as the American Wars of True Independence.
While African slaves had some success fighting both the French and the British in Central America, the colonies in North America had their share of these revolutions that were crushed both before and after the British left the United States to its own devices. There were hundreds of these revolutions but a major uprising was led by a Virginian slave, Nat Turner.
Nat Turner’s revolt was put down after he and his band of former slaves and freed fighters faced up to the state militia infantry, twice in its number to the strength of Nat Turner’s armed unit. However, he had done enough damage and had killed enough of his former masters and their families to strike terror in the hearts of slave owners across the nation.
While his revolution ultimately failed, he and other revolutionaries throughout the 18th and the 19th century provided enough muster to the already rising confabulation around the question of slavery.
The treatment of his corpse showed the fear that slave owners had of such revolutions and their potential success in the colonies. He was skinned, body parts were distributed as souvenirs, including his skull that was stored in an unknown location in a college in Ohio for some time.
Nat Turner died a failed revolutionary’s death, unlike George Washington and other fabled Founding Fathers. That does not take away from the sanctity of his cause. America, is a land of revolutions! And all these revolutions ought to be remembered, taught and pondered over, exactly the same way.