175 years ago: Turner's resistance to slavery makes him a hero
November 7, 2006
Virginia authorities executed Nat Turner for murder 175 years ago.
For many white Americans, Turner remains a terrorist.
For many in the black community, he is our hero.
Turner was a black preacher who led a group of 50 enslaved and freed Africans in rebellion. They traveled from house to house, freeing slaves and killing all the white people they found.
Turner was a religious man who believed God directed him to free his people from bondage by slaughtering members of the race that oppressed them. During a two-day spree, the group killed 55 people, including men, women and children.
He was hanged on Nov. 11, 1831, and his body was then skinned, beheaded and quartered. Some whites kept various body parts as souvenirs.
Some say Turner was a stone-cold murderer whose thirst for blood was epitomized by his killing of children. But Turner saw that his white oppressors did not discriminate by age, and he knew that slavery brutalized black babies. He wanted to stop these horrors at any cost.
African-Americans have every right to celebrate Turner as a hero. He was a freedom fighter who sacrificed his life to liberate his people from the murderous system that dehumanized them. His vision of freedom provoked him to rally his troops around their common identity in a necessary challenge to the horrors of institutional bondage.
Whatever one may feel about Turner, African-Americans have a right to determine who our heroes are and how we choose to remember them.
Turner died for the type of freedom that currently allows us, as a community, to make such determinations.
Damien Amari Jackson is a freelance writer based in the Atlanta area. He can be reached at email@example.com.