August 21st 1831: Nat Turner’s rebellion begins
On this day in 1831 the Virginian slave Nat Turner began the deadliest slave rebellion the United States had ever seen, which resulted in the deaths of 55 whites. Turner, a slave preacher, had come to believe that God intended for him to lead a black uprising against the injustice of slavery. In the evening of August 21st 1831, Turner and his co-conspirators met in the woods to make their plans and early the next morning began the rebellion by killing Turner’s master’s family. Turner and his men, who soon numbered over 80, then went from house to house assaulting the white inhabitants. Eventually a local militia, and then federal and state troops, confronted the rebels and dispersed the group. Turner himself initially evaded capture but was captured on October 30th. Subsequently Turner, along with over fifty other rebels, was executed. However the retribution for Nat Turner’s rebellion did not end there. The uprising sent shockwaves across the South, and while full scale rebellion such as Turner’s was rare in the Deep South due to the rigid enforcement of the slave system, caused widespread fear of another rebellion. In the ensuing hysteria over 200 innocent black slaves were killed by white mobs. Turner’s rebellion came close to ending slavery in Virginia, as in its wake the state legislature considered abolishing the ‘peculiar institution’. However the measure was voted down and instead the state decided to increase plantation discipline and limit slaves’ autonomy even further by banning them from acting as preachers and learning to read. Similar measures were adopted across the slave-holding South and thus Nat Turner’s rebellion increased the South’s commitment to slavery, despite undermining the pro-slavery argument that it was a benevolent system and slaves were content. Turner has left behind a complicated legacy, with some seeing him as an African-American hero and others as a religious fanatic and villain; his memory raises the eternal question of whether violence is justified to bring about necessary change.
August 20th, 2014
Tonight, just over a week after the killing of an unarmed black teen at the hands of Ferguson, MO police, Oakland residents took to the streets in solidarity with protesters across the country to demand an end to police brutality against black (and brown) communities. Centered around the failure of Ferguson’s local authorities to arrest killer cop Darren Wilson, the officer responsible for Michael Brown’s death, protesters in Oakland rallied to demand “Justice for Mike Brown.”
SF Gate reported:
The marches started in four separate locations - Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Jack London Square, the main branch of the Oakland Public Library and the African American History Museum - but came together outside of Oakland Police Headquarters around 6 p.m.
Protesters from the different marches were briefly prevented from joining up with each other by a line of police.
Quanah Brightman, executive director of United Native Americans, an Indian protest group was angered by police attempting to block the marchers from uniting.
"They won’t even let us walk on the public street," he said. "I don’t feel safe. It is what it is, and they hate us. When they put on a badge, they’re allowed to kill us."
Several protesters and family members had recently returned from Ferguson, where police have been criticized for their heavy-handed tactics, and urged support for their counterparts there.
Oakland certainly is not unfamiliar with police brutality. Like today, it was not long ago that the community was in the streets over the death of Oscar Grant, who was killed by BART police in 2009. Or the nearby deaths of Alex Nieto and Andy Lopez, who both died at the hands of law enforcement officers.
Even more recently, however, over the death of Alan Blueford, who was shot and killed by Oakland police on May 6, 2012. His mother, Jeralynn Blueford, along with Grant’s mother, attended the protest tonight.
As quoted by SF Gate, she rallied the crowd with chants of “They say get back! We say, fight back,” as police formed a line to block merging groups of protesters.
She went on to tell the folks to take the fight to Washington D.C., saying “We’re going to change this crooked system. Obama, if you hear me, Alan Blueford’s life matters. Mike Brown's life matters.”
(Photo Credit: Top by Scott Strazzante | All remaining by AmericaWakieWakie)
Interviewer: But the question is more, how do you get there? Do you get there by confrontation, violence?
Davis: Oh, is that the question you were asking? Yeah see, that’s another thing. When you talk about a revolution, most people think violence, without realizing that the real content of any revolutionary thrust lies in the principles and the goals that you’re striving for, not in the way you reach them. On the other hand, because of the way this society’s organized, because of the violence that exists on the surface everywhere, you have to expect that there are going to be such explosions. You have to expect things like that as reactions. If you are a black person and live in the black community all your life and walk out on the street everyday seeing white policemen surrounding you… when I was living in Los Angeles, for instance, long before the situation in L.A ever occurred, I was constantly stopped. No, the police didn’t know who I was. But I was a black women and I had a natural and they, I suppose thought I might be “militant.”
And when you live under a situation like that constantly, and then you ask me, you know, whether I approve of violence. I mean, that just doesn’t make any sense at all. Whether I approve of guns.
I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Some very, very good friends of mine were killed by bombs, bombs that were planted by racists. I remember, from the time I was very small, I remember the sounds of bombs exploding across the street. Our house shaking. I remember my father having to have guns at his disposal at all times, because of the fact that, at any moment, we might expect to be attacked. The man who was, at that time, in complete control of the city government, his name was Bull Connor, would often get on the radio and make statements like, “Niggers have moved into a white neighborhood. We better expect some bloodshed tonight.” And sure enough, there would be bloodshed. After the four young girls who lived, one of them lived next door to me…I was very good friends with the sister of another one. My sister was very good friends with all three of them. My mother taught one of them in her class. My mother—in fact, when the bombing occurred, one of the mothers of one of the young girls called my mother and said, “Can you take me down to the church to pick up Carol? We heard about the bombing and I don’t have my car.” And they went down and what did they find? They found limbs and heads strewn all over the place. And then, after that, in my neighborhood, all the men organized themselves into an armed patrol. They had to take their guns and patrol our community every night because they did not want that to happen again.