tv The Civil War Nat Turners Rebellion CSPAN July 31, 2019 10:23pm-11:29pm EDT
american history tv's look with a look at the civil war continues now with author patrick green on his book. a new history of the gnat turner revolt. this talk was part of the summer conference. it's about an hour. >> good morning again. i'm peter car michael, member of the history department at gettysburg college. i'm also the director of the civil war institute. it is my pleasure this morning to introduce to you patrick green who's an associate professor in history and classics at providence college. i should note he's also the father of one of our high school scholarship recipients from last year, correct? she came here and enjoyed herself i'm sure. patrick is the author of "the
land shall be deluged in blood, a new history of gnat turner's revolt" published by oxford university press. it is a book that i assigned to my undergraduates this spring. and as we all know undergraduates, they're tough customers when it comes to books. they absolutely enjoy mr. green's scholarship and especially his writing. it is a bold book, it is an important book and one of the things that patrick and i talked about it is just -- it's just a shame. that one can go to southampton county today, where turner's revolt took place. you'll see some state signage, but yowl have no way of taking a driving tour to see the sights related to that important
revolt. it truly is shock. i know patrick is trying to do his part and trying to bring more awareness and attention so that audiences like us who go to battlefields, and i suspect if we had the opportunity we would take a bus down to southampton county to be able to look at that historic landscape that has changed radically. i don't believe and patrick can speak to this later, that there is a single building that still survives from the revolt. is that true? are there any homes left? there are some. okay, i was unaware of that. so,a real pleasure to have patrick here, and of course he'll be speaking ability his book about gnat turner's revolt. patrick green. >> thank you, peter. and thank you all for coming. this is a real honor and a
pleasure to be here. coming to talk to you guys at the civil war institute is a real honor and i'm really pleased to do it. i also want to make a special welcome to the young people, the high school students who are here as peter car michael said, my daughter actually applied and got into it last year, had a great, great experience. i want to encourage you because if i -- well, there's two things. well, my daughter wants to thank you, peter, for not inviting me last year. which is fair. and second, i want to tell you guys what i would tell my daughter but i wouldn't tell my daughter this because she's not going to listen to me. you guys are at a great age. you're going to be looking at colleges, you're going to be doing things. really reach out to people. this is great opportunity for you guys to learn about the life of the mind and don't be afraid
of people who have pulitzer prizes and who've written 30 books and i'm allowed to be scared of them, but you guys not so much. not so much. and if you are scared of them come talk to me. but get in the habit of talking to these people. find out what you're interested in. this is really, really great opportunity, peter, and i think it's a fabulous thing. and i want you guys to get in the habit because when you get to college you could be the person in the front row in college who goes up to meet the speaker. and people love the speaker engaged so i want to get you guys in the habit of it. it's an unbelievable opportunity. anyway, today i'm going to be talking about gnat turner. of course gnat turner didn't happen in gettysburg in 1863. how do i get you guys back to 1831? well, gettysburg as you know is,
you know, central battle, the place of the most important battle that happened in american history. it's also the place of the gettysburg address. this is place where history has happened. so people come here unlike southampton county where history happens too where people don't come. we don't have a woodstock for gnat turner. i love this thing, civil war wadstocwa woodstock, this is awesome. we don't have that. anyway, how do i get you guys back there? it's not like i'm going to del you about 1863 more than you already know. well, let me start with this. abraham lincoln. now, it's not his gettysburg address, but its his cooper union address in 1860, one of
the most important speeches he makes. and this is when he's a candidate and that picture of him from matthew brady is taken the same day as the cooper brady address. has anyone ever aged this much in five years? anyway, abraham lincoln gets up and one of the things he does he's sitting there in and this address he starts talking about southampton county, and he asks his audience of new yorkers what induced the southampton insurrection 28 years ago in which at least three times as many lives were lost since harpers ferry. what happened? now why's he asking this? i think it's pretty simple. republicans are going to be blamed for john brown. in fact john brown slave insertions are a complete fiasco. look at southampton county and why did they revolt.
it wasn't because of republicans. there were no republicans, so what is it? what is it that made the slaves revolt in southampton county? i think it's a good question and one that does bear on people who are studying the civil war and one you guys diving into this should think about. that's what i'll talk about for the next 45 minutes or so. so we're going back to 1831. not 1832 where gettysburg college was founded, 1831. it's not lincoln who's president, it's jackson. that guy. economics, i want to set this economically. when we look at the civil war many historians know a lot more
than civil war -- actually you guys know more about civil war than i do. one of the things when we look at the civil war we say, boy, this is one where railroads matter. oh, it's a modern war, we've got railroads or railroad i think in 1830. there it is. 1830, exactly a year before nat turner's revolt. so we're not in the world of railroads. nat turner's world is not that world. okay, here's a map of railroad construction in the united states by decade. 1830, there's nothing. i mean there's like three dots. there's a dot there by d.c. there's a dot by south -- by
charleston. there's two dots in pennsylvania, so that shows how advanced pennsylvania is. there's no railroads. there's no railroads. so that is -- we want to remember there's a good deal more isolation. now of course by 1860 -- by 1860 the nation is going to be crossed by railroads. well, not crossed all the way but 1867 it's going to be crossed all the way. railroad construction is going to explode after nat turner. but they don't know that's coming. they don't know that's coming. what they do have a sense that's coming is the cotton revolution. okay, obviously there's been cotton produced forever, okay. but in 1793 there's going to be a tremendous increase in the availability of cotton as we move from just being able to produce long staple cotton which
can grow basically in the sea aisles of georgia to being able to produce short stable cotton which is going to open up cotton production throughout the hinterland of the south. and so cotton production is going to boom. here's a map of cotton production. top one is cotton production in 1820. bottom one is cotton production in 1860. it's a tremendous amount of expansion of cotton production. keep in mind the 1790 picture of cotton production is just some orange or red right along the coast of south carolina and georgia. so there's been an incredible expansion of cotton. now of course with the cotton production -- with the cotton
production -- sorry about that. with the cotton production is going to come slavery, an incredible -- i don't know what happened. i've got to jump ahead. okay, i don't know where it is. this is what happens when you play with your slides late at night. i'm just happy it's here. you know, i'm sitting there saying, okay, i've got all these nice slides, hope they show up. okay, with cotton production we're going to see an expansion of slavery. and i'll show you a map later on. i think we'll see what's in the slide show later on, you and me both, we're going to see the slide show later on showing how the slave population is very much going to follow the cotton production in america, right? we have the industrial revolution happening. cotton is going to become the central ingredients of it.
slavery is going to be the main way that the staple of the industrial revolution is produced. okay, so what does that mean? well, it means something really important for slavery, okay? in the 1780s and 1790s slave reason retreat. there's no doubt about it. pennsylvania is a free state. why? because they abolished slavery 1780 -- someone help me here -- '80 or '81? okay, '80. what? 1833? what's 1833? no, no, that's britain. that's britain. so we're going to see massachusetts, pennsylvania, of course the first one that's going to abolish the slave trade is where? vermont. why is vermont the first one to abolish the slave trade because
there's a bunch of pirates, okay, they're up in vermont and they want to make sure the new yorkers who actually have slaves don't bring their slaves onto establish the claims to the land which are much more solid claims to the land. the point is slavery is in retreat and there's no doubt about this, the great accomplishment of the articles of confederation, right, which couldn't figure out how to tax the country, it did figure out one thing which was how to keep slaves out of the northwest territories, right? you also have a constitutional proof that's going to end the slave trade in america 20 years after its adoption. they didn't do it immediately, that's unfortunate. but they did do it 20 years later. but remember 1780, slavery isn't attractive. in the 1780s you're going to see virginia moving away from slavery. it's going to free up laws
making it easier for virginia slave holders to free their slaves. there's a movement away from slavery and it makes sense in a way because there's an insatiable demand for slavery. and what you're going to see is see a retreat in anti-slavery, right? here we have the -- one of the great institutions of america. and i say that i don't know with italics or quotes or whatever. the american colonization society, think about it, we're not talking about ending shavery, we're talking about sending free blacks away. maybe it'll end up freeing slaves but what is it mostly going to do, the main goal is trying to get blacks out of the country. and this is not anti-slavery. we of course have the missouri compromise. slavery appears on the national stage. what do we get? we get slavery in missouri,
right? yes, there's a promise slavery won't go past 3630, but slavery is there. it's balanced. slavery is part of the country, it's part of the world. and it's growing. now, that's not to say that there aren't opponents of slavery. one last thing the new york emangspation law. think about this. when new york can't even figure how to emancipate its own slaves it passes an emancipation law as does new jersey. places with more slaves pass emancipation laws that are gradual. places like massachusetts that are poor and don't have as many slaves actually do things like get rid of slavery immediately. but places like new york which actually has small but significant slave pawulation is going to get rid of slavery by abolishing it gradually, which means everyone born after 1800
is going to be free when they're 21 or 25, right? but what about the people who are born 1799? they're going to be slaves forever. both forever for them, for their whole lives. after all when the civil war starts new jersey is a slave state, right? there are still slaves in new jersey in the 1860 census, why? because they never came back and abolished slavery permanently. here we have what does new york pass? it passes an emancipation law that says in 1827 those people who were born before 1800 are going to be free. think about how small a step that is, and that's in new york. this is not in charleston. this is not the kind of place where slavery which did look threatened with the french revolution, the haitian
revolution and what was going on elsewhere, it looked really threatened in the 1780s and 1790s. by the 1820s it seems like it's there to stay. it's stable. well, that of course is going to lead many people, especially many black people to go out and try to start-up what we now think of modern abolition. you're going to see the freedoms journal, the first black newspaper published in the united states, published in new york. you're going to see david walker's appeal, 1829, calling for slaves to fight for their freedom. of course in 1831 you're going to see william lloyd garrison's "the liberator." so we see this movement, this movement to start abolition, to start realizing that there's got to be something done to stop
this institution, you know, to get rid of it actively. it's not just going to wither away and die. slavery is something that seems to be re-establishing more firmly established even though we're in this age of progress and this age of enlightenment. all right, so that's 1831. that's 1831. now, 1833 in england abolition september having much more success. keep that in mind. this reflects in part english slavery is sugar based, cotton based. it also reflects the fact that england is freeing slaves in its colonies, primarily -- as there's movement against slavery and as there's abolition it
doesn't happen everywhere. and in america, in southampton county slavery seems strong, slavery seems strong in ways i think maybe we don't always imagine. yes, these things are happening. yes garrison's printing up his liberator. we don't know about it. this stuff is starting up, but it's not -- slavery seems and feels permanent. and you can see this i think very well in the average price of the slave over the years before the civil war. what does this chart show? this chart shows panics, booms and busts, right? maybe it works. maybe i don't know how to use it. whatever. but you see the peaks. 1819, 1837, these are the panics that happen in world economy,
american economy. but what do you see? the panics happen but the slavery is there, in fact the price of slaves are growing. as you know the price of slaves in 1860 is at an all-time high in new orleans. this is not an institution that seems like it's going to leave. point one, slavery seems strong. point two, what about southampton county? where is southampton county in this growing world? well, briefly -- well, where is southampton county physically? it's right there on the map, bottom sort of south of petersburg, between petersburg and on the north carolina border. here's a map and i'm not sure how well it appears. it's sort of hard to see. this is the united states in 1830, and this shows the slave population. places in red, the red dots are
roughly 50 -- or sort of orange dots, the middle ones are roughly 50% slave. so there it is. here's the world, okay. we have lots of slaves. and you have to remember virginia is the heart of slavery. the cotton expansion is happening and the cotton boom is happening and the biggest plantations which had been in south carolina are going to move to places like mississippi and alabama. mississippi more than alabama. louisiana and mississippi. these -- these plantations don't ever change the fact virginia is the largest slave holding state in the country in 1860. right? virginia's gotten an enormous slave population. well, if you're going to start a rebellion you need to know something about the demographics. what are the demographics in virginia? in virginia whites outnumber slaves 3-2.
not propitious for slaverable. never is an okay answer. haiti, haiti is full credit. it doesn't happen. it's very hard for a slave revoer revolt to succeed in history. is it going to succeed in virginia, 4-2? that's going to be really tough. what about southampton county? southampton county actually has more slaves than whites. so it's not, you know, like the high school we're going to revolt and take over this thing. although that would be sort of cool, i think. i don't know. no, i mean it's -- there are a lot of slaves in southampton county. there's a lot of slaves in southampton county. i also want to go back to the
map of this cotton production. in 1820 you'll see the cotton production -- actually this map shows the slight cotton production extends up into southampton county which is true. it does. the slight cotton production in southampton county we know where the slave production is going. it's going to go along the black belt, the mississippi river. this is also going to play an important role in the revolt. well, we're going to see the shift of the slave population basically from the coast which is where it is in the 1830 map to the mississippi river area. that's without -- without taking the slave population away from the -- from virginia. vurng still has its slave population. it's just the growth of the slave population happens in the west. i mean, important thing and thing you can't see, what's the number of slaves in the country
in 1830? 2 million. what's the number of slaves in the country in 1860? 4 million. okay, so there's been an enormous growth in the slave population in the country. but notice this. in southampton the slaves -- i don't want to get my numbers reversed and i can't see it so it's okay. southampton population is going to go down. why? because this is not the center place of the economic growth. remember cotton production is going to be moving away from southampton county. the whites are moving away, but the blacks are moving away even faster. how's that happening? it's the slave trade. okay, now think about if the slave population in southampton grew at the same rate the slave population grew elsewhere in the world what would happen to the
slave population between 1830 and 1860? it would double. so that 30% decline is astonishing. it's really more like a 65% decline. relative to the growth in the nation states. where is that population growth going? it's going to mississippi, louisiana and georgia. it's going south. okay, important things to chemoin mind? why? what induced the slaves to rebel? well, one thing that may have induced -- what induced the slaves to rebel? this may be one of the things. this is not my research. it doesn't even make it into my book, but a guy wrote a really long book which had a great, great provocative question he asked. why -- what happened? why did they do it? he said one thing he found out was the day -- the week before nat turner announced his revolt to his closest associates, his
son had been mortgaged. okay, now it obviously proves nat turner did it because he knew his son had been mortgaged and this was a response to that. we don't know that. i think it's pretty darn reasonable. i think it's the right reading. things happen for lots of reasons but, you know, might you revolt if you find out your son has been mortgaged, a deadbeat has mortgaged your son and he's going to get sold away and you're never going to see him again? seems to me not a bad reason to rebel. even if it is against impossible odds. all right, keep that in mind. keep that in mind. now, nat turner never speaks about that. and what i want to talk about today is not these -- not the demographics which is just i think the context for it. but i want to explore why the
slaves are rebelling, what induced the southampton insurrection? at least as we see it in the record. follow the evidence and see what that that says. well, what induced the slaves to rebuild? nat turner. who is not turner? whites thought that nat turner was crazy. was a complete fanatic. who plays a part most admirably since thomas curry in the confessions. the man who wrote down at turner's confessions, which are -- to any of you, readily available online and i encourage you to read it. one of the reasons things my book doesn't i'm not gonna talk about this today. it takes a confessions much more seriously than anyone has for the last 50 years. make arguments about the reliability of these confessions. my argument, you can read it if you want, is that they actually
are what they say they are, which is basically what nat turner said. which makes him them a really remarkable, remarkable source. you could read them in about an hour. if you ever want to find out why nat turner rebuild, you don't have to look to me. you can go read it online. anyway. thomas r gray thought he was a complete fanatic. newspaper report said the same thing. a preacher in a pretend profit, this is who it is. of course -- was a modern understanding of slave revolts. it has lasted. been part of our way of understanding slave revolts. meaning, we look at dictates the confessions of nat turner. which came out in 1967. i expect many people here have read. there he is. he is still a fanatic. he still a little crazy. you know, that is who it is. you know, i think there is a
way in which this has been one way of understanding at turner's revolt is by saying, it's just this crazy thing that happened. nat turner is like a jim jones figure. i don't think that's true. i don't think that's true and i don't think the evidence actually supports. i think the evidence tom gray wrote actually supports it. i don't know if thomas gray actually believes it.'s.'s okay here we are. how do we understand that turner? one view is that he's a fanatic. the other one is that he is as heroic figure, right? if anyone has seen the new nat turner movie which -- sought together, that may have been the entire audience. i'm not sure. did not do well in the theaters. but it's a new understanding of what happened in nat turner's revolt . and sort of, sort of - completely heroic. nat turner is a hero. he does great things. this is not new. in 2016. it goes back. here he is, being the great
preacher. and the slaves are enthralled. behind at turner's leadership. that's not how it went down. i want to tell you a little bit about how it went down just make a couple of comments along the way. to talk about how we have to read think --. it might make is actually rethink a little bit about how we think about slaves in the civil war.'s unlike the last picture, this one is more accurate. the first actis conspiracy. what happens? in 1831, there's an eclipse of the sun. you can go to this great website. you can actually see the path of the eclipse of the sun, which basically almost goes to southampton county. it is a really awesome eclipse. nat turner says in a confession, on the appearance of - immediately, the sign appearing in the heavens, the seal was removed from my lips and i communicated a great work
laid out for me to do. before -- the greatest confidence. henry park nelson to take. without the eclipse. the thing i find interesting about this. who did nat turner tell when the seal was loosed from his lips? four. four is not really a great number. think more like 40 times four or 4 millionw4 is a little better. why for? it's pretty clear. the newspaper article is investigating this after the revolt found the rebels decided not to tell more people, because the word always leaked out. now, raising an interesting question. how did they study the history of this? i wish i knew. what were they thinking about? i don't know. but they did know their history
enough to know that slave revolts are hard. because what you have to be? you have to have one person. what does ben franklin say about a secret? three can keep a secret as long as one is dead, something like that. this is not, this is not an easy thing to do. slave rebellion is dangerous. because all you have to do is have one person get a little bit queasy. dislike, but you're the one nice person i like. just don't hang around next sunday. why not? whom. okay. soak up slave rebellions are hard. now, do fanatics sit there and say hey, i'm only going to tell four people? no people. people who think about it. the kg. there smart. abraham lincoln new - abraham lincoln knew as much at his address. of the same thing. the word leaks out. so, is he a fanatic?
i mean if i fanatic human religious person, yeah, maybe, i guess. but, you know, i'm not sure he's fanatic in the sense that, i think the sense what people say fanatic, they mean a lot more than that.'s okay here he is with his four -- telling them about the plan. it's a plan. had to set up the slave revolt. let's start with the two promises i have. one is, he is not crazy. okay? a 2 is, slaves, whites outnumber slaves 3-2 in virginia. how do you do a slave revolt? by the way. if you can answer this, please come to the microphone at the end entellus and you are not allowed to use zombies in your answer. yet. it's hard. it's hard. it is not obvious. i've got a phd. i have thought about it. i don't know how you do it. it is not clear.
of course i have a phd means are probably couldn't start a slave revolt probably if i wanted to. guys. talk to the hand. there is, you know, what are you going to do? one person came up with the idea of starting on july 4. a really meaningful moment. why july 4? july 3's a great day. july 15 gives you nine more days to plan. why july 4? wasn't it obvious? july 4 is a meaningful date. it's a date. there was a document that was signed. sort of famously. i don't know if you guys have heard of it. it announces that all men are created equal. just remember, that is not the constitution. that's the declaration of independence. you get full credit in college. okay.'s all men are created equal.'s political. but i find this really interesting, right? how many people are involved in the revolt at this point? 5. what are they doing? you're saying, we were thinking
about this revolt in political terms. is not turner thinking about the revolt in political terms? is he thinking about it like frederick douglass does. know. i don't think so. i think he is religious. right? in fact, when they say july 4 comes around, what actually happens? this is what he said. it is intended by us. -- july 4 last. many were plans forms and rejected last. it affected my mind to such a degree that i felt sick, and the time passed without are coming to any determination of how to commence. he got worried. again, another sign he is not crazy. okay. we are going to go die. why are you going to die? god wants me to die. okay? what are you going to do? you going to start on july 4?
not so sure. he wasn't confident. i get that. you want me to join a slave rebellion? i'm not gonna do it. i got a 401(k). no. not doing it. they don't have the same things, but they have same worries. they have the same worries. they're going to die. do you want to die? no. do you want to die in this political war? no. i think this is a really meaningful moment. but that turner - nat turner does not see it in a political framework. he sees it in a religious framework. i don't have a problem with that. but what does that mean? his group has expanded to five people total. and they are already looking at the revolt differently. some people are seeing this like, frederick douglass. some people are seeing this is a political move. i think this is one of the really important lessons we need to pass along to the civil war scholars and students of
the civil war. people do things for different reasons. okay? i don't want to sit there and say they did it for one reason, they did it for another reason. that means they didn't like sleighs or something stupid like that. you do want to be open to the differences in views of people.'s nat turner is expanding at. if there are differences between 5 people, are these people following that turner, nat turner blindly? no. they have got their own interpretations. yeah, the going to join the revolt. why? because they want to. well, what did give nat turner the confidence that it was time to begin? a new sign. what was the new sign? the sun appeared blue.
okay. now, i'm not one who was sort of into reading harbingers in the sky. but i must say, that would make me think twice. okay. all right. that's a little weird. everyone would say this is time to begin. so, the revolt begins. what do they do? here is the map of the area of st. luke's parish where the revolt is going to take lace. they're going to start at joseph travis's house. joseph travis is the man who is nat turner's owner. not his owner. his guardian. not his owner. and they are going to set out and follow this path towards jerusalem. okay? so what do they do? they start squabbling about just who is going to hit first. nat turner said you guys are always talking about how -- time to be on let's go do it. there like, no. you begin first. why? well, because they didn't trust
him. they didn't trust, they wanted to make sure he couldn't walk away and wash his hands and say i don't know what you're talking about. those guys are crazy. if you take a swing, everyone knows that you are going to die. again. these people were following nat turner blindly. they weren't his disciples. so, what did they do? they go in and they kill the travis family. and then, they jump -- francis some of these pictures are from the wpa which of the actual pictures from 100 years later, the forms. this is -- francis's farm, which is really just a shack. it is. you knock on the door, they say, now. we got a message for you. grab them, kill them. so, the revolt begins initially, taking advantage of surprise. then, in the morning, they
start going quickly. they get horses and they start moving. this is on the swing back. they go to catherine whitehead's house with peter edwards and richard porters and on the way to new harris, by this point in the morning, there are 9 on horseback and 6 are walking and they are making their way back towards jerusalem. when they get to catherine whitehead's plantation, which is a bigger plantation, nat turner is going to end up killing the only person he kills, which is margaret whitehead. a lot has been made of this. this graphic novel, picture. william stier made a tremendous amount of this. i think the explanation from this is a little simpler. nat turner was just, nat turner was riding in the back and he
saw margaret whitehead escape. he had a little sword. and his sword didn't kill anyone. he tried to kill her with it. took the fence post and bludgeoned her to death. but then, so, they are going as fast as they can, killing as many people as they can. and then in the morning, on monday morning, they realize that they had been discovered. so, what did they do? nat turner reassembles the group . he says i've got to divided rings which make sense if you're going as fast as possible. ones on horseback are going faster than the ones on foot. and then, he says we have been detected. let's bring them together so that we are going to be able to fight back against whatever response comes in for us. so, once they realized the word has spread, what succumb to plantations that have been abandoned, they come together. and they come together at the harris plantation. and they are up to about 40 slaves at this point. and they are all excited about what is happening.
as they make their way toward jerusalem, they are going to have a, they are going to attack the schoolhouse, which is on levi waller's farm. they are going to kill women and children. actually the man on the farm, -- and the schoolteachers escape.'s which of course would be a big thing is people tell the stories about the brutality. ultimately, they make it about a mile away from jerusalem. to parkers gate, where they have a battle. this is still the battle from the birth of a nation, the 2016 movie. the battle doesn't have - i should say, the battle doesn't
happen anything like this. is a complete mess of. you guys who do civil war know the stuff better than i do. imagine this is the battle between two sites, none of whom know anything about what they are doing. but everything goes wrong. it is a complete disaster. and in fact, nat turner doesn't even know what happened when he is captured a couple months later. he still doesn't know what happened that day. the revolt has taken place. but as it turns out, nat turner's army, which is about 40 guys drinking, ends up beating, chasing off the field, a small group of about a dozen whites who sort of happened upon them. but they ran into another group of whites before the end of the battle. and they dispersed nat turner and his men. the next day, the revolt falls apart. people dispersed. it is just a mess. and there is going to be tremendous amounts of, you know, this, the county is going to be up in arms. what happens to nat turner, though, nat turner escapes. and for the next two months, nat turner as a way.
until mid october. i want to just, sort of close with this. but i want to draw your attention to what happens here when he is discovered. it's one of the underappreciated lines that happens in the confessions. -- having started to go hunting pass the way where his cave was, and the dog came out again to the place. the dog had a couple of days before found some food that nat turner had hidden in his hiding space. and having gone to walkabout and discovered me and barking, i spoke to them -- making themselves known, they fled from me. sort of an astonishing moment. what happens here? nat turner's like, okay, some blacks are out hunting with their dog in the middle of the night. i'm like, hold on. blacks are out hunting in southhampton on october 15? less than two months?
what's going on? it doesn't make sense. after the revolt, the revolt was quickly put down. and in fact, immediately after the revolt, the whites in charge realized that the great danger was not from the blacks who were put down in about a day or two. the great danger to the slaveholders was from the whites. because there was nothing they could do if regular whites decided that they wanted to kill all the blacks became across. so, martial law was passed in south hampton county. southampton county. and the county was really, the fighting was really, the repercussions against the black community was really much, much less than people had thought. so, why? well, because the slaveholders needed to protect the property. that's what happens. nat turner found, he is discovered. the black community knows immediately that these are
blacks who are not going to hide him but are going to betray him, and eventually going to -- a couple more weeks of hiding out. they are chasing them at this point and they know where he is. and they discover him. when he is finally captured. and then in what is one of the great documents of american history, the confessions of nat turner. now, that is a really quick telling of a little bit longer book. but what i wanted to tell you guys about it, i think one thing we have got to do, as we have got to be really careful about thinking about sort of slavery as this, you know, simple answer. slavery is a very complex institution. okay? it is going to lead people to respond to it in different ways. in the ending of slavery, it's going to be a very complex event in the civil war. people are going to respond to it in different ways. some people are immediately going to be like frederick douglass. the political.
some people will be worried about the families. some people are going to be worried about, are you going are going to see this in a religious favor. some people will be worried about their lives. there is going to be lots of different responses. and, we need to be aware in the way that the historical moment creates opportunities. i heard carrie gallagher's talk, which is great. he's like, we got to remember, freedom follows the union army. that's a really important point. you want to think about the relationship of events to moments. and one thing you notice among the slave community, as there are not a lot of slaves who were going out and saying, this, i need to do this no matter what. there are certain --. but what you have is a lot of people making decisions based on what they think is the best way going forward. not knowing what the future is going to bring. and that is how nat turner worked. and that's the story i tried to tell in my book.
thank you. >> [ applause ] >> we have time for questions. i think the way it works here is if anyone has a question, they can come up to a microphone. >> hi. kurt carlson from illinois. question for you is, do you think, or to what degree do you think that the fear of the slaves among white southerners, how that played into their fighting in the civil war, and the postwar anti- reconstruction, you know. >> you. great question. i think the, will first, i
think the fear, i think the fear is overrated. just, the idea that slaveholders are immediately afraid. it doesn't, you know, when i see evidence that blacks are out hunting two months after -- in the middle of the night. blacks are out, probably not with guns. probably with dogs. but come out hunting. that is astonishing. so, i don't want to just immediately turned to the fear. because, i think there is a very powerful emotion, and it is certainly one that a lot of people were afraid. after nat turner's revolt, a lot of the people were afraid that the leaders who declared martial law and prohibited whites from killing blacks indiscriminately, the slaveholders who did that, a lot of whites in southampton county were upset at the decision. so, they sent a letter to andrew jackson, saying, we
actually need support and these guys are taking this seriously enough don't you realize that every house has one of these potential killers in it? all these houses with slaves. there are slaveholders - there are slaves everywhere. they could just kill us anytime they want. we are completely defenseless against this type of attack. so, there are people who are afraid. but, there are also people whose fear is different. and i think for the slaveholders, and i think in the civil war, and certainly in reconstruction, one of the fears the slaveholders have, is not the fear that they're going to get their heads cut off in the middle of the night. obviously, some people have that. but it one fear they have is that they're not going to be able to control the black population. they have complete control of the black population under slavery. and you are going to see, there like, hold on, what do we need
to do to control the black population? the interesting thing is in reconstruction, the fear of blacks plays into social control. right? they drum up, oh, the blacks a white woman and go out and kill a bunch of blacks and sort of make sure that blacks stay in their place or don't vote or do whatever. in nat turner's world, the fear isn't , the fear doesn't work that way. the fear of the slaveholders is that if we get so afraid of blacks killing whites, there is nothing that can be done. think about this. what do you do if you go up and shoot a black person in 1831? i'm scared. okay. so, they take you, they and that you. and that you for murder. which you could get indicted for murdering a slave. okay? and then you go to a grand jury. he said i thought he was a slave. i thought it was nat turner. he's lost it, you know.
there is no way you're getting convicted. so, the fear of the slaveholders have is that they are going to lose control of slave property. think that is something we have to keep in mind. i think the -- stuff is very easily used. and very easy to document and talk about. but i think there is a way that we have to think about how there is a fear of, there is a fear of losing social control. thank you. >> -- from mechanicsburg, pennsylvania. what we have with the confessions with nat turner as interpreted to us through great. how do you, as a historian, filter out gray's point of view? is sort of you can get to nat turner ? >> great question. actually, when the project began, basically, i might start with to say, this is a, all the historians who have been working the last 50 years say nat turner , gray messes it up
somehow. and we don't know where and we don't know how. and then you get historian saying things like i hear nat turner's voice here. what? and you know that? i was going to be more methodical and say this is all gray until we hear otherwise. and then as i pushed on and pushed on it, i began to realize that there is a lot in the confessions that sig just that it is not great. one of the things gray puts in introductory things. where he tells his point of view. he also puts in parenthetical comments where he tells his point of view. you can see where their viewpoints are different. and, gray's viewpoints of the revolt are different from nat turner's. so, one of the things, there are many reasons, but i have come to see this as a more reliable account, the part in the middle that would be", i don't think is an exact translation, but i think it's
pretty close. so, that is something, one of the reasons why, there is a great explosion of scholarship on nat turner after william styron's novel came out in 1967. basically, everyone would grab whatever they wanted from the confessions and use it willy- nilly to support their position. sort of ignoring that question about the reliability of it. and one that burned itself out, no one wanted to touch the confessions. and i think when i came back to it, the idea is, i think you could basically read it as not a production of --. i think it was pretty clear, he has written this within three days of the capture of nat turner. it is also pretty clear that he hadn't written it before nat turner had been captured. ultimately, he is going to put editorials in. he's going to mess up. but basically, he might use language differently. i don't know. it's not a video recording. but, i think it's a fairly accurate account of nat turner's confessions.
i think it's well worth listening to , the voice of nat turner. >> reporter: high. riley -- from new york city. i was wondering what the extent was, the extent to which the killing of women and children influence the negative feelings of turner? because it seems to be one thing to kill, but another thing to attack an innocent schoolhouse. it seems much more violent. >>'s great story. thank you for that question. does a great story about this. obviously, this is a bridge too far. it's still a bridge too far. law professor still writing about, well, okay. it makes sense. he's a slave. it's justified in fighting back in the fight back you're going to kill people. and okay. but, you know, there is this moment where, at the first house, they go back and they slay and innocence sleeping in the cradle. he wasn't going to get up and go sound the alarm. that's communal, so it's like -- this is actually something, i think it's fairly clear that they talked about the rebels.
and there was one point of view which is like, we should kill everyone and just scare the be jesus out of the whites. and show the blacks that were not afraid of anything. the other point of view, i think this is probably nat turner's point of view, which is, we should probably kill the men, and maybe have to kill the women to come because they can actually run, even if the not going to fight. but, nat turner loses that argument, i think. not sure about that. i'm not sure which side he's on in that. but they go out and kill women and children. and women and children becomes a huge rallying cry, as you saw from the cartoon. the women and children, these guys are savages. of course, no one is thinking about the way that slaveholders treat women and children in slavery. you know, it's not fair, but, leaving that to the side. it becomes a great rallying cry. after the revolt, people who are pushing against slavery, and this is another thing they don't talk about nearly enough
in the book. but other scholars have. after the revolt, the -- seriously talking about ending slavery, right? they have, there are proposals of the virginia legislature that give serious consideration that they should adopt gradual emancipation. remember, that wave of emancipation that had stopped around 1804 and new jersey? there's a movement to get that wave of emancipation going again. so, there is a debate. and during that debate, there are petitions from women and children saying, we don't want to become involved in politics, because that's not our role. but this is a political question that connects to our very safety. so, we want slavery to end. there is actually a series of three petitions that have been written by women. and one was written by a man who signed it as a woman in half the women of the guest account he signed it in the
voice of women saying protect us. now, it did not ultimately succeed. the people who were moving for emancipation in virginia loss. but it is really a powerful moment. and the supporters of gradual emancipation thought that they could use it to support the argument against slavery. to last questions. thank you. >> good morning, sir. my name is calvin brown from cape, massachusetts. so, question is, and related to -- during the civil rights movement. because the south harden down on slavery and restricted education, religious freedom and implement at harsher laws on slaves in response to the aggressive slave rebellion, nat turner's rebellion, how do you think america would've responded to malcolm x had he been more successful in leading more aggressive revolts, and perhaps even killing more white people in the name of civil rights instead of mlk's peaceful approach to change? >> great question. malcolm x. is really one of
those endearing figures. what would he think? i think one of the things we've got to be careful of, is sort of saying, we've got to really historicized these things. malcolm x. is many different people. if you look at the relatively new biography of malcolm x. the invention. reinventing a life. you see that these guys change over time. and you want to be careful not to sort of say that there is one solid thing. i want to contextualize. so, malcolm x., there are points which he is really looking as, he is really trying to, he is trying to scare people. he is talking a big game in terms of violence in such. and there are also times when he is going to be moving in different directions. so, you don't want to, i mean, malcolm x. had many different positions on race. you don't want to just assume that there is one position and one thing. you want a source document. >> thanks. >> last question. >> i'm -- washington area.
and -- the book, confessions of nat turner. way back in 1960, as a young child, the board. my older brother in high school and my mother were having a discussion about whether or not the book is accurate or should be -- and highschooler of high school kids to read it or if it was too controversial. so, i have been curious, what was so controversy all about that book? >> it's pretty easy to answer the controversy about it. initially, it went and out and won a pulitzer prize. great initial notices. but there's a couple of problems with it. that were brought up. this is 1967 the book is written. one is, it is a white southerner writing the story of america's most famous black slave in the first person. he is speaking for him. he is making him a little crazy and making him flawed.
you know, he thinks -- is humanizing him. but a lot of black power activists, guys not malcolm x. he's got dead by this point. guys like sophie carmichael are saying you can do that. the other thing is that the center of the story becomes the story of the killing of margaret whitehead. and he, and william styron sees that is really psychologically important. he doesn't think that he killed margaret whitehead perchance. he thinks it's really meaningful that this is the only person he killed. so, what he ends up telling the store, nat turner actually loved and hated margaret whitehead. which is which has broken 100 years of racist sister are griffey where we have the black . right? but nat turner, americas hero, black hero, is becoming someone who is lusting after white women. and that because something that is a bridge too far. so, those of the two big issues
that set off the debate in the 60s. >> thank you so much for your time. >> [ applause ] c-span's campaign 2020 coverage continues thursday when president trump told a campaign rally in cincinnati, ohio. that is live starting at 7 pm eastern on c-span. and friday, more campaign coverage with remarks from acting white house chief of staff, mick mulvaney. he will speak at the annual silver elephant gala, hosted by the south carolina republican party. that is live friday at 8:15 p.m. eastern also on c-span. this thursday night, american history tv will continue our focus on the civil war. we will begin with the history of gettysburg national park. followed by discussions on civil war violence. and reflections on writing about the war. watch american history tv thursday, beginning at 8 pm eastern on c-span 3.
this weekend on american history tv, saturday at eight p.m. eastern on lectures and history. comparisons between abraham lincoln and andrew johnson on the constitution. >> we take a look at the whole cartoon. it's a very different impression. of what people thought of johnston and the constitution at the time. not that he was a defender. but that he did not understand the constitution. it was above his ability, and that he was acting in unconstitutional ways. >> sunday at 6:00 on american artifacts. preview of the 19th american exhibit at the national archives. >> women in new jersey who were america's first voters, beginning in 1776, when new jersey became a state, the new jersey state constitution made no mention of sex when discussing voting qualifications. and only had a property requirement. so, women who owned enough
property, primarily widows and single women, not all women in new jersey, could and did vote in elections at the local, state and national level. >> reporter: and it 8 pm, on the presidency, arthur john author john farrell talks about nixon's early life and career. >> 1947 and early 1948, he campaigned for the marshall plan. he went to every rotary club, every chamber of commerce, every vfw and american legion hall. every crowd that would take him. he told them he owed them his best judgment. not his opinion. and he convinced them. the party primaries were held in california in the summer of 1948. richard nixon did not just with the republican nomination. he won the democratic nomination. he had wagered everything and carried the day. he ran unopposed.
his first reelection campaign. >> reporter: >> explanations passed on american history tv. every weekend on c-span 3. i look at the civil war on american history tv continues. up next, west virginia university professor jason philip talks about abolitionist, john brown. and the pipes he had made for use in the plant insurrection. the talk was partly civil institutes summer conference. this lasts about one hour. >> good afternoon. peter carmichael the -- of gettysburg. also a member of the history department. it is my pleasure this afternoon to welcome jc phillips, jason phillips is the everly family professor of civil war studies at west virginia university. he started his academic career at the university of richmond. that he completed his masters at weight forest before going on to rice university where he worked with john wl
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