Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Nat Turner . . . A Hero Who Should Remembed This Day and Every Day


Nat Turner . . . 

'And about this time I had a vision — and I saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened – the thunder rolled in the Heavens, and blood flowed in streams – and I heard a voice saying, "Such is your luck, such you are called to see, and let it come rough or smooth, you must surely bear it."'
                             Nat Turner, leader of 
                             1831 Slave Rebellion in
                             his Confession 

It was on this day -- August 21 --  in 1831, that Nat Turner led slaves and free Blacks in an insurrection in Southampton, Virginia. 

Turner was noted as intelligent as a child, and his grandmother told him he was destined for greatness. He was extremely religious regularly reading The Bible, praying and fasting from a very young age. Additionally he had visions, causing him to be called "Prophet" by fellow slaves.

At 22 he successfully ran away, but returned on his own a month later… saying that he was spiritually induced to do so. 

In 1828, he said that he saw a vision that he interpreted as indication that he was to lead his fellow slaves in an insurrection, a bloody one. 

Three years later, in 1831, he saw a celestial event that he interpreted as a signal that the time had come, and in February that year he began to lay plans for the now legendary Slave Rebellion.

More than 60 White men, women, and children were killed by the slaves and free Blacks following Turner. But Turner acted more leader than soldier, only killing one person -- Martha Whitehead. 
"It was agreed that we should commence at home, on that night, and, until we had armed and equipped ourselves and gained sufficient force, neither age nor sex was to be spared: which was invariably adhered to," Turner explained in his confession. Once they had gathered enough guns and ammunition, he said, the only Whites they would kill would be men. 

And let's be clear -- Nat and his men didn't only prey on the weak. They faced the White militia and fought valiantly!

Turner's men were coming out of a house on a plantation when they came face-to-face with a group of about 80 armed Whites. Turner's men numbered 60. 

Neither side did anything at first, but then one of the Whites fired a volley. When it was answered by a return volley by Turner's men, the Whites turned their horses and ran. 

After encountering the armed and organized White militia, the once-fleeing group of White men led the way back to Turner's location. And a battle ensued. 

The insurrection lasted two days, but was eventually put down by experienced and organized White militia.

Turner, however, managed to escape. 

But two months later he was discovered by two slaves who alerted Whites to his location. 
Turner went on the run to avoid capture, but was unable to elude the men and dogs on his trail. On October 30, he was captured. 

And, so, on November 11, 1831, Nat Turner was hanged. His body was flayed and beheaded. He was then buried in an unmarked grave in an unknown location. 

After his death, Turner's young wife was viciously tortured and whipped in an attempt to make her reveal where he kept his papers. She likely died under the lash. No papers were ever found. 

All together, thirty slaves and one free Black man were condemned to death, but 12 of the slaves were pardoned by the governor -- at the request of owners who wanted their slaves back to work on plantations. So only 19 of the condemned were hanged.

There were also hundreds of non-involved slaves and free Blacks murdered by the still angry White militia. Their vengeful rampage went on for months. 

Turner and his followers did not succeed in ending slavery, or even ending their own captivity . . . but they are still heroes. 

Please, on this day if no other, honor them as such.

Ibaiye, Baba Nat Turner. Your bravery and your demonstrated love for our people shall never be forgotten. 

Ibaiye all who followed Baba Nat Turner and were killed for doing so. Your sacrifice shall always propel me on.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

|| A LEARNING MOMENT || The Chicago Defender


On this day, May 5, in 1905, Georgia born Robert Sengstacke Abbott printed the first edition of what would become the most widely read African-American newspaper in the country — The Chicago Defender.

It wasn’t the first African-American newspaper, but it was definitely the most influential.
In fact, it is credited with starting The Great Migration; the migration of about 5 million African-Americans from the South to the North and West between 1915 and 1960.

Abbott attended Hampton Institute where he studied printing, and then law at Kent College of Law, but couldn’t make a decent living as an attorney.

In 1905 he printed the first editions of The Chicago Defender in his room in a boarding house and, encouraged by his landlady, he sold copies door-to-door.

Slowly he started gaining both readers and advertisers for the weekly paper, but it wasn’t until 1910 that he was able to hire his first full time employee, J. Hockley Smiley.

Abbott‘s big break came soon after when he convinced Pullman Porters to take papers with them on their trips to the South.
Soon African-Americans around the country were reading The Chicago Defender.

Only in The Defender they weren’t called African-Americans. Nor were they called Negroes or Colored.

In The Chicago Defender we were called The Race — our men were called ‘Race men’ and our women ‘Race women.’

And The Race was certainly gobbling up his papers nationwide. Even people who couldn’t read were buying the paper, because to have an issue in the home was considered a symbol of good breeding.
By 1916, only eleven years after its inception, The Chicago Defender had a circulation of 50,000.

And it also had a defined mission or goals that Abbott said he considered the paper’s Bible:

1.  American race prejudice must be destroyed; States;
6.  Government schools giving preference to American citizens before foreigners;
2.  Opening up all trade unions to blacks as well as whites;
3.  Representation in the President's Cabinet'
4.  Hiring black engineers, firemen, and conductors on all American railroads, and to all jobs in government;
5.  Gaining representation in all departments of the police forces over the entire United
7.  Hiring black motormen and conductors on surface, elevated, and motor bus lines throughout America;
8.  Federal legislation to abolish lynching; and
9.  Full enfranchisement of all American citizens

Abbott began encouraging Blacks to move from the Jim Crow South to the more liberal North. Jobs, he wrote, were abundant, housing was plentiful, and you didn’t have to move off the sidewalk if a white woman was walking along it. He railed against lynching and unlawful imprisonments which were nothing but a return to slavery.
He even began publishing a poem that included the stanzas:

No Cracker to seduce your sister
Nor hang you to a limb
And you’re not obliged to call to ‘mister’
Or show your teeth to them

(For those interested, I will type out entire poem, but I’m on a time-crunch now to get this finished by 10 PM. I didn’t get started until 8:30 PM.)

Then he even started publishing train schedules so The Race could find it easier to make the move from The South to the North.

And they did. So much so that some southern cities banned the sale of The Chicago Defender.

Inevitably, Abbott soon became a millionaire, and to thank the landlady who back in 1905 allowed him to use a room in her boardinghouse to print his papers he bought her an 8-room home.

Abbott died in 1940, and his heir and nephew, John Sengstacke, took the helm of the paper. (Abbott had noted his interest in printing early on, and paid for his nephew’s education.) Sengstacke was just as fervent about racial issues as his uncle and when Emmett Till was murdered in 1955 it was The Defender that first published the story, and the horrific picture that brought the hideous crime to national attention.

In 1956 Sengstacke changed the paper from a weekly to a daily, and the name to The Chicago Daily Defender, but it resumed weekly publication in 2003. Sengstacke remained publisher of the paper until his death in 1997.

Though no longer family-owned, The Chicago Defender is still published every Wednesday.