Monday, December 16, 2013

A tour of the sites of Nat Turner's Slave Revolt and Bacon's Rebellion, in southern VA

In trying to document the history of civil rights by travel, as much as practical, I visited a couple sites in Virginia, south of the James River, on Sunday afternoon.

One of these was “Bacon’s Castle”, between Surry and Smithfield VA, about fifty miles SE of Richmond (on the other side of the James from Jamestown).  The home is one of the oldest standing brick structures in colonial America, dating from 1665, in Jacobean style.  The living quarters look simple compared to colonial Williamsburg.  Indoor photography is not allowed, but a brochure includes indoor pictures of the rooms.  The history is important, because “Bacon’s Rebellion” in 1676 (100 years before independence) was one of the first uprisings against a British colonial governor (Berkeley) for failing to help the colonists defend themselves against native American.  But a modern person can turn this around and maintain that it is an early episode that shows that America was founded in part by taking away land and territory and “conquering” native Americans, leading to bad karma, or at least to today’s reservation system.

Another forty miles, back to the SW, almost on the North Carolina line, is the town of Courtland, founded in 1886, but previously called “Jerusalem”.  The town contains some of the relics of Nat Turner’s Revolt or Slave Rebellion of 1831, including the Rebecca Vaughan House and Mahone’s Tavern.  See the TV blog entry for Nov, 5, 2013 of the PBS “Many Rivers to Cross” episodes.  The Vaughan house is on a platform and appears to have been moved, and apparently is going to be part of an outdoor forestry group museum.  The placard says that the House marks the last place where white slave owners were killed.  The incident shows that gross injustice, to which people born into a system of privilege are often oblivious, sometimes is remedied by direct conflict or a “purge”.  Slave owners sent reinforcements from North Carolina.  The rebellion would be seen as terrorism today, and it probably added to racist laws in the years leading to the Civil War, including the returning of slaves who had escaped to the north, perhaps to their kidnapping (as in the movie “12 Years a Slave”, movies blog Oc. 19. 2013), and also precluding the education of slaves.

The Revolt happened after the sky turned green, apparently because of a volcanic eruption in the Pacific Northwest, but Turner took the sky as a sign/ 

The wiki for the Revolt is here.

Note the curious "Victory Baptist Church" in Courtland (aka Jerusalem),  I have been to a similarly named church in the Pleasant Grove area of Dallas, TX. 

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