Stevie Wonder’s album, “Hotter Than July” naturally evokes the question, “what’s hotter than July?”
August is hotter than July. Below is a list of historical August events:
- African Americans began our traverse into slavery on August 20th, 1619 (see our post called “Standing on Bones, Part I).
- Fourteen year-old Emmett Till was lynched by Southern racists and brothers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam in Money, Mississippi on August 28, 1955.
- The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was held in Washington DC. on August 28th, 1963 and its 50 year commemoration was greatly celebrated for a new generation of young people to become connected with its importance and legacy.
- Freedom Summer concluded in August of 1964.
- The Watts Riots took place in August of 1995.
- Black August, a practice that began to honor freedom fighters and revolutionaries Jonathan Jackson, George Jackson, William Christmas, James McClain, Khatari Gaulden, and survivor Ruchell Magee, began in California’s San Quentin prison following the killing of George Jackson during a rebellion on August 21st, 1971, is still one of our nation’s largest disturbances among Black Liberation circles.
Also on this day, August 21st, 1831 the man regarded as “The Prophet” by other enslaved Blacks, Nathaniel “Nat” Turner, waged the Nat Turner Rebellion. Born on October 2, 1800, Nat Turner had been born into slavery in Southampton County, Virginia. Unlike most enslaved Blacks of his time, Nat Turner was taught to read by his owner’s son. It was his ability to read that turned him to a deeper reading and understanding of Christianity. The ideas that had been taught to enslaved Blacks during slavery that supported slavery, were contradicted when Nat Turner read Christian doctrines; and, he actually came to the belief and understanding that Christianity condemned slavery. An eclipse of the sun represented a sign from God to Turner that it was finally time to change the condition of Black people held captive by the institution of slavery. In 1830, Nat Turner has been sold to Joseph Travis, and when he saw the eclipsing sun’s color change, he took that as a final sign to move forward with his insurrection.
Nat Turner had recruited seven (7) others to assist in his efforts and they killed all members of the Travis family first. They also killed fifty (50) more whites. In total, Nat Turner’s efforts only attracted the assistance of seventy-five (75) others–enslaved and free Blacks. When the state militia received information about what was happening under Nat Turner’s leadership, they were determined to suppress it. Nat Turner and his team were outnumbered by more than three-thousand (3000) militiamen. In 48 hours, the Nat Turner Rebellion was suppressed. One of Nat Turner’s men had been killed and the rest were taken into custody. For two (2) months, Nat Turner was able to elude police, but he was eventually caught. He was tried for murder and insurrection. Six (6) days after his trial, he was executed and some two-hundred (200) other innocent enslaved Blacks were murdered.
Many people hail Nat Turner as a hero for the stance that he took in attempting to rid America of slavery. Others have labeled him a fanatic preacher. While his actions did not stop slavery, the Nat Turner Rebellion was indeed a turning point in the savage institution of slavery. Southern slave owners inflicted even more harsh and severe punishments on their enslaved populations–overall the state of paranoia among whites nationwide was intense. Some abolitionists, however, used the Nat Turner rebellion to heighten their efforts to help end slavery.
The discourse over how right or wrong Nat Turner’s actions were will forever be debated, but what can never be debated is that Nat Turner ensued action that he felt would provide him the best quality of life. Since he believed in the Bible and believed in its condemnation of slavery, Nat Turner followed the sign he believe had come from God to change the condition of other Blacks and for himself.
Much of what happens in history is never pretty, especially when it involves the subjugation of others.
How will we remember Nat Turner?