“Ever hear of Nat Turner?” Sheriff Joe Wilkens asked me.
“Sure,” I said, “he’s a famous Black man who led a slave uprising before the Civil War.“
You’re right, my friend Joe said, adding that he was a direct descendent of the leader of most notorious revolt during the US slave era. Nat Turner lived on a North Carolina farm, and was secretly taught to read by the son of his master, Joe recalled. Slaves were discouraged from learning to read and some were severely punished when their scholarship was found out.
Nat Turner’s master, however, permitted his “property” to learn to read. But he could only read the Bible.
And that’s exactly what Nat Turner did, reading that book from cover to cover, back and forth, and in even in-between, realizing there was a message there for all men, no matter the color of their skin.
He also realized that he could express that message in the form of a preacher. A preacher who became so good in spreading the Good Word to fellow slaves that free Whites and other slave owners soon came a visiting the nearby slave household to hear the Gospel According to Nat Turner.
Some thing happened following one of Nat Turner’s evangelistic presentation. A vision appeared to him! Something mystical occurred, some say. Something that changed Nat Turner’s view of the world from that moment on:
Slavery was not good!
That simple notion took on a life of its own, and Nat Turner led slave after slave out of their bondage, tearing them away from years of forced servitude. Historians are mixed about the impact of that revolt.
Nat Turner’s followers killed more than 80 people in a flight away from slavery and on toward the path of freedom.
Of course, the slave revolt did not last. A militia came to the fields, captured and killed Nat Turner. And all that’s left is the story of the most daring slave rebellion this country had ever seen.
“That’s quite a story,” I told Joe, setting him up for the next line. “But I may be a direct descendent of another slave who led a revolt,”
“Who?” Joe was quick to ask, wandering how some White guy whose Greek could try to match his story about slavery.
“Ever hear of Spartacus?” I said.
Joe and I smiled at each other, understanding that good friends can often have so much in common once they share a bond together.