Nat Turner’s Rebellion, Another Failed Insurrection

“Liberation from the top would go only so far as the interests of the dominant groups permitted. […] Thus, while the ending of slavery led to a reconstruction of national politics and economics, it was not a radical reconstruction, but a safe one- in fact, a profitable one.”

Nat Turner’s rebellion was one of the largest slave insurrections to occur in which at least sixty white southerners were killed. This uprising threw southerners into a frenzy, as it was sudden and for the first time in Southampton, Virginia, whites, including women and children were at the mercy of the vengeful slaves. The militia was immediately dispatched, the rebellion quickly came to an end and those believed to be involved were hanged. The fear of slave uprisings soon turned to anger as white mobs attacked all blacks and any kind of freedom slaves had were taken away with the tightening of security and imposition of new restrictions.

These rebellions couldn’t go far because of the lack of participants, weapons and organization. The only way a rebellion could be successful was if the government aided the slaves, which essentially meant the government would be in control. Anytime slaves were allowed any kind of rights, it was because of those in power. Decisions were made based upon whether it would be lead to a profitable outcome for those at the top, instead of whether it was the right thing to do. Zinn mentions this rebellion because it further reinforces the point that revolting against slavery would always fail as long as the government was not behind it. The only way the government would support the abolition of slavery and rights for blacks was if they had something to gain from it and if an insurrection occurred in which they had no control over, they made sure to shut it down with excessive force, like they did with Turner’s rebellion.