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Turner constructed the "1831 Confessions" as a means, as a guide, by which his life

and his "great work" could be read and understood. These existential exertions, that is,

these efforts  to interpret God’s presence in the world, exemplify Turner’s conception

of the religious life, of living fully engaged in the world.

 

 

Section 2, Chapter 7 Coming to Grips with Injustice & Corruption

 

Nathaniel Turner 

Christian Martyrdom in Southampton

A Theology of Black Liberation

By Rudolph Lewis

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Methodist Elders Interview Miracle Child

Recognition of Nathaniel's Spiritual Gifts

 

The Cross Keys Methodist religious leaders became aware of the miracle of the slave boy Nathaniel, from Harriet, his spiritual mother. Benjamin Turner also had taken note of the child. But there was also a formal interview of the child, son of Nancy of the Nile and possibly his master Benjamin Turner. Those at this interview included, according to the "1831 Confessions," Harriet, other "religious persons who visited the [Turner] house," others whom Nathaniel "often saw at prayers," and the host Benjamin Turner.

Harriet told them that the child knew of events before his birth and she also pointed out the birth marks. This board of interviewers took note, Turner told Gray, of the "singularity of my manners," my "uncommon intelligence for a child" and "remarked that I had too much sense to be raised, and if I was, I would never be of any service to any one as a slave."

The prophecy or forecast of Benjamin Turner and his Methodists would be fulfilled, but not in the manner these Methodists of Turner’s Meeting House had then hoped. These "religious persons," Elders of the church and ministers of the gospel, seemingly, were not adverse to manumission of individual slaves. This Christian community in which Harriet, Nathaniel’s spiritual mother, participated was opened to both slave and free, white and black.

That is, these Methodists headed by Benjamin Turner strove for the Pauline ideal of the Church, neither condemning nor condoning slavery. Slavery was a divinely ordered condition, a spiritual test, that both slave and slaveholder had to endure within the constraints of Christian brotherhood and grace. These were fine sentiments that the young Nathaniel took to heart.

The Elders of Cross Keys received yet another sign of the uniqueness of the slave child in their midst. This second miracle gave further evidence to Harriet’s prophecy that Nathaniel would be a prophet. Turner told Gray, "I have no recollection whatever of learning the alphabet . . . one day when a book was shown me to keep from crying, I began spelling the names of different objects—this was a source of wonder to all in the neighborhood, particularly the blacks." Nathaniel astonished the Turner family by the ease at which he learned to read and write. Many believed his gift of knowledge was indeed another sign of God consciousness in the child.

The acquisition of knowledge without study was a recognized biblical phenomena. In his prophecy of the coming Messiah, Isaiah 11.2-5 lists the seven gifts of the Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge, fear of the Lord, and purity of heart. These could be gained without formal study. They were available to men of God. They also were standards by which to judge one’s self and one’s relationship with the divine. Viewing his life in the spiritual light of these Southampton religionists, Turner was deeply affected by the notion of God in history and in man.

Religion, thereafter, became the principal subject to occupy the boy’s mind. "Restless, inquisitive, and observant," Turner told Gray, "there was nothing that I saw or heard of to which my attention was not directed." In still more wondrous ways, the manifestation of his spiritual gifts "constantly improved at all opportunities." Turner became aware of his spiritual development.

Learning to read the language of man, nature, and God is a thematic motif that runs throughout Turner’s testament. The "1831 Confessions" text is intended as a window. Turner constructed the "1831 Confessions" as a means, as a guide, by which his life and his "great work" could be read and understood. These existential exertions, that is, these efforts to interpret and figure out how to interpret God’s presence in the world, exemplify Turner’s conception of the religious life, of living fully engaged in the world.

Turner, like other Christian slaves, considered Moses the model prophet. For Moses "was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds" (Acts 7.22). According to Joseph Fichtner, Moses, the prototype for all subsequent prophets, "was given all the scientific and military training available" (Forerunners of Christ, p. 20). This spiritual legacy, Turner claimed as his own.

Literacy and broad learning, however, was not a requirement of Methodists leaders or ministers. Though many of the early itinerant Methodist preachers possessed little formal education, "[John] Wesley and [Francis] Asbury . . . did insist that the itinerants read extensively for their own spiritual growth" (The Garden of American Methodism, p. 122). According to F. Roy Johnson, "Benjamin Turner and his foreparents for three generations seem to have been unlettered or almost so" (The Nat Turner Slave Insurrection, p. 18).

In this folk environment, Turner’s literary achievements were indeed miraculous and unexplainable. Here is one of the strange paradoxes of a hierarchical society. As a child, Turner had greater literary attainments than many whites in Southampton, not only the older Turners but also other slaveowners. How could this be, if God had not had his hand in it? Turner’s precocity was the foreshadowing of a great moral dilemma: how to accommodate a God-taught person to slavery and racial oppression.

Sources Consulted

Fichtner, Joseph. Forerunners of Christ: Studies of Old Testament Characters. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Co., 1965.

Johnson, F. Roy. The Nat Turner Slave Insurrection. Murfreesboro, N.C.: Johnson Publishing Company, 1966.

Williams, William Henry. The Garden of American Methodism: The Delmarva Peninsula, 1769-1820. Wilmington, Delaware: Scholarly Resources, Inc., 1984.

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Nathaniel Turner: 

Christian Martyrdom in Southampton 

A Theology of Black Liberation

By Rudolph Lewis

 Chapter 6 A Mother's Prophecy / Chapter 8 Growing into Spiritual Manhood

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Garden of American Methodism

The Delmarva Peninsula, 1769-1820

By William H. A. Williams

The book explains the role the rise of Methodism played with people on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia during the years 1769-1820. I is important reading for Methodist history as well as Delmarva history. A growing consensus among historians recognizes this Chesapeake region as the center not only of Methodist growth among African Americans but also as the proving ground for the future of the movement in the new country. Delmarva is celebrated by "the garden of American Methodism." It was home for many years to Francis Asbury, the "father of American Methodism" and fostered perhaps the strongest sectional opposition to slavery in the early US church.

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

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#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

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#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.” 

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 10 May 2012

 

 

 

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