RICHMOND — A state commission planning an anti-slavery monument in downtown Richmond voted Wednesday to include Nat Turner, the leader of a bloody 1831 slave uprising in Southampton County, among a group of 10 African-American figures who will be honored on the statue’s base.
The work on the new statue being done by the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Commission has thus far avoided controversy, but the decision to include Turner — seen as a freedom fighter by many and a mass murderer by others — is likely to bring a new level of attention to the planning process for the monument meant to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of slavery.
Turner was by far the most hotly debated name Wednesday as a panel of state lawmakers and historians tried to select 10 honorees from a list of 30 finalists.
“If nothing else, he’s the bravest black man in that era,” said Charles Withers, a commission member from Roanoke who pushed for Turner’s inclusion. “It’s problematic for me as a black man in modern-day society to stand up sometimes. I can’t imagine the courage that Nat Turner had.”
Making the case against Turner’s inclusion, Lauranett Lee, a professor at the University of Richmond and the founding curator of African-American history at the Virginia Historical Society, said women and children were among the roughly 60 people killed before Turner, a preacher who believed God wanted him to lead slaves against their white owners, was caught and executed. The end result of the revolt was a crackdown on African-Americans who had no part in the insurrection, Lee said.
“We have two people who have spoken against having Nat Turner on the monument,” Lee said. “Ultimately, what did Nat Turner’s actions do?”
Turner’s uprising in the summer of 1831, the bloodiest and most prolonged slave revolt in American history, stoked intense fear and anger among whites, some of whom retaliated by killing any African-American they could find. Before he was hanged, Turner spoke at length with attorney Thomas R. Gray, whose pamphlet “The Confessions of Nat Turner” shaped Turner’s place in history.
“The only account we have of what he was thinking was written by a white man who interviewed him,” said Gregg Kimball, director of education and outreach at the Library of Virginia. “And there’s a lot of controversy about what any of that means.”
WTF?!!! What is going on here? Nat Turner was a mass murderer. He and his followers waited until the men had gone off and systematically murdered the women, children and old people. Then they stormed the surrounding area and killed other people. White people were the targets of this killing spree.
To honor someone who has killed in this manner is absurd and morally bankrupt. A friend of mine suggested that this initiative made about as much sense as erecting a monument to Lt. William Calley at the Vietnam War Memorial. His analogy was better than mine. I suggested a memorial to Paul Hill and Scott Roeder for killing Drs. Britton ad Tiller.
What makes matters worse is the tax payers will be footing some of the bill for this memorial. Granted, it isn’t all about Nat Turner but if he is in any way upheld as someone deserving honor, then the tax payers must not be held responsible for payment of something so morally questionable.
People have lost their footing when Jefferson is branded a rapist and a killer and placed along side someone like Nat Turner who not only killed but also brought horrible consequences to other slaves. In most states laws were soon passed that slaves could not be taught to read and write. Trust between blacks and whites corroded. Curfews were established. People feared for their lives.
I can think of many black Americans to honor. Nat Turner isn’t one of them. It’s time for people to start using some common sense. Politicians need to stop being intimidated by this kind of thinking for fear they won’t be seen as politically correct. I have crossed the Rubicon. I don’t care if people think I am politically correct or not. I would rather be politically incorrect than seen has someone with suffering fro moral relativism.