The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part 2: The Testimonial

The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part 2: The Testimonial by Sharon Ewell Foster

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Authors: Sharon Ewell Foster
about the Nat Turner story. What did it all have to do with her? “I’m a Yankee, you know. We’re mind-your-own-business kind of people. I’m not sure this is my business.”
    Henry would not let up. “You believed Uncle Tom’s Cabin was your business. How is this different?”
    â€œThis mishmash with Nat Turner is the South’s business, isn’t it? Let men like Governor Floyd work it out. Who am I to interfere?”
    Frederick Douglass looked down at the pages in his hand. “But men like Floyd, fence straddlers, haven’t been able to work it out. His attempt at gradual abolition failed, these notes say, because the slave-holding portion of his state threatened to secede from Virginia if pressed about slavery.”
    Still perched on the couch, irritation lacing his voice, Henry frowned. “Are we not our brother’s keeper, Hattie? You sound like our older sister, Catherine. Do you really believe this is the South’s private affair?”
    â€œMaybe she is right.”
    â€œYou know better, Hattie! It is fear I hear speaking, not my courageous sister.”
    â€œMaybe Governor Floyd was right. We are staunch abolitionists. But, perhaps, how the South resolves the issue of slavery is their affair—like what happens behind a family’s closed door. Maybe we should mind our own business.” Harriet was surprised by her own words and thoughts.
    â€œNat Turner was the thud against the wall.” Frederick Douglass’s voice cut through her efforts to reassure herself, to make room to step away from it all.
    â€œI don’t understand.”
    â€œEven with neighbors, who respect one another’s privacy, there is a time to step in.” Frederick Douglass rubbed his beard again. “Nat Turner was the black eye, the scream from the apartment next door.” He lifted The Confessions of Nat Turner . “This lie and his death say we cannot sit back and do nothing. Because of Nat Turner, we can no longer pretend not to know what is happening right next door to us. Can we turn our backs and pretend we don’t hear or see? We cannot leave them to suffer. We must do what we can, even if we must invade their privacy, to end the suffering. Even if it means risking our reputations, or even our own lives.”
    The three of them were silent. Harriet heard the clock on the study mantel ticking. “Do you think there will be war?”
    Frederick’s voice was no more than a whisper. “Though my heart is heavy, I think it is inevitable.” The clock sounded even louder in the silence. “We must do what we can to prevent it.”
    Henry stood then and came and knelt before Harriet. He took her hand. “We must summon the courage to speak up, to say clearly who we are and what we believe. We must have the fortitudeto confront lies with truth. We must do all we can, with all that has been given us, to set the captives free. Courage today or there will surely be carnage tomorrow.”
    A tear stung her cheek. She looked deeply into the eyes she had trusted all her life. Harriet squeezed Henry’s hand.
    â€œWhen would you like to meet with William again?”
    She turned toward Frederick. “I do want to find the real Nat Turner.” If she was going to commit to truth, she might as well begin now. “But William makes me uncomfortable. He alarms me.”
    Frederick nodded. “If we would seek after truth and love, the path will lead us through dangerous places, past strangers who frighten us. But if we find the courage to persevere, we will find what we seek.”
    Harriet nodded and agreed that Mr. Douglass should arrange a second meeting as soon as possible.

Nat Turner

Chapter 15
    Cross Keys Area, outside Jerusalem, Virginia
    Christmas 1830
    N at Turner bowed his head to pray with the others over their Christmas dinner—beans, corn bread, greens, and cabbage flavored with pigs’ feet and tails. He

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