Guest column/We must continue to look for common ground

In the observance of Black History Month, our history is rich with chronicles of Africans who were captured and sold as slaves to the far corners of the Earth.

A small number of these involuntary descendants were able to return to Africa after years of absence. Within the last century, Africans have been studying and living in many nations throughout the world.

Our African-American history has touched that of almost every major civilization since the beginning of recorded time.

The range of African and African-American history and culture is vast, and includes the profiles of many well-known figures, particularly in the fields of sports and entertainment.

Many people throughout the world, whether they be African-American, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, Latino, etc., cannot endure brutality (beatings) and continued harassments.

Nat Turner was born the property of a prosperous small plantation owner in a remote area of Virginia. He was born on Oct. 2, 1800, and died on Nov. 11, 1831, in Courtland, Va. His mother was a native of Africa who transmitted a passionate hatred of slavery to her son. He learned to read from one of his master’s sons, and he eagerly absorbed intensive religious training. In the early 1820s, he was sold to a neighboring farmer of small means. During the following decade, he saw himself called upon by God.

Turner was a person who could not endure beatings, torment and harassment any longer. He was an enslaved African-American and minister who led a rebellion of slaves and free blacks in Southampton County, Va., on Aug. 21, 1831.

To lead his people out of bondage, he began to exert a powerful influence on many of the nearby slaves, who called him “the prophet.”

In 1831, shortly after he had been sold again — this time to a craftsman named Joseph Travis — a sign came that led Turner to believe that the hour to strike was near.

He carried out his plan to capture the armory at the county seat, Jerusalem, and gathered many recruits to meet at the dismal swamp 30 miles away. On the night of Aug. 21, together with seven fellow slaves, he launched a campaign of total annihilation, murdering Travis and his family in their sleep, and then set forth on a bloody march toward Jerusalem. In two days and nights, about 60 white people were ruthlessly slain.

Shortly, Turner’s insurrection was handicapped by a lack of discipline among his followers, and only 75 blacks rallied to his cause. Many innocent slaves were massacred in the hysteria that followed. Turner eluded his pursuers for six weeks, but was finally captured, tried and hanged.

Turner’s rebellion put an end to the white Southern myth that slaves were either content with their lot or too servile to mount an armed revolt. For many years in black churches throughout the country the name Jerusalem referred not only to the Bible, but also covertly to the place where the rebel slave had met his death. A minister, Turner is considered to be one of the most complex figures in America history.

We, as a people, must come to a mutual, common ground. Where there is a will, there always is a way.

We must learn to sit at the table and talk — yes, even with our differences. If we talk long enough, and intelligently enough and prayerful enough, we will see through the dark glass of hatred, racism and discrimination. God has made us — not we ourselves.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, keep us forever in the path, we pray.

(Wiggins, a resident of Steubenville, is president of the Upper Ohio Valley Black Caucus.)

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