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Contributions of Nat Turner and John Brown in the fight for Freedom

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Contributions of Nat Turner and John Brown in the fight for Freedom

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Rebellion and raids were mainly conducted to fight against slavery which imposed oppression against the people. Devastating effects were caused by slavery; thus, caused freedom fighters such as Nat Turner and John Brown to lead rebellions and motivate other slaves to fight against slavery. As a result of the freedom fighters’ dedication to eliminate slavery, the rights and freedoms of people were gained.

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Nat Turner is a freedom fighter because he led against the injustice of slavery in the US.

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He had led an insurrection of enslaved people against their owners in Virginia, declaring “Death or Liberty” for himself and his followers. Although he was able to kill around 60 slaveowners, Turner’s rebellion was eventually suppressed and he was captured on October 30th, 1831. He became the first American rebel slave to be executed by the US government after being convicted of murder for leading a large rebellion against slavery on August 21st 1831. Although he used violence in his struggle for liberty, the rebellion had been fueled by a belief that God called on slaves to rise up against their masters and free themselves, with the sole purpose of freedom (Tomlins and Christopher). As a result of Nat Turner’s rebellion, many states passed laws restricting slaves’ ability to obtain reading materials or learn to read and write; although, these restrictions were later extended to free blacks as well.

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John Brown was an American abolitionist leader who believed in and fought for the immediate abolition of slavery in the United States. Brown first came to national attention after his unsuccessful attempt in 1856 to start a slave revolt in Kansas. One year later he led the raid at Harper’s Ferry arsenal in Virginia and was captured there by federal forces as part of an effort to put down what was then seen as a major insurrectionist threat of domestic terrorism against the United States from slavery-related Civil War (McIlhone, and Patrick). In 1858 he held a secrete anti-slavery convention, but efforts to keep the results secret failed, and many of its participants joined Brown in Kansas. Brown and his followers left Kansas after they were attacked and defeated by pro-slavery forces, returning to Harpers Ferry under the leadership of a new, more militant leadership. Although John Brown’s Raid was unsuccessful in ending slavery in the United States, it did spur further antislavery activity as well as stirring up feelings against the “Slavocracy.” After his arrest by federal authorities at Harpers Ferry in October 1859, John Brown was tried for treason against Virginia in December 1859; he was then found guilty and hanged.

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The eruption of Mount St. Helens was one of the events that triggered Nat Turner to launch a rebellion because it sparked fear among the slaves and resulted in increased cruelty. In 1812, an earthquake rattled Virginia’s coast. Turner would later say that “he believed that God was angry with America because of slavery.” The following year, an epidemic started to spread across the East Coast of North America. Turner would later say that “he had seen blacks in great distress” as a result of the event. In 1814, a volcanic eruption in the Gulf of Mexico caused economic uncertainty among white landowners in Virginia. When these events occurred, Turner believed them to be God’s signs for him to begin his uprisings. Although Turner’s rebellion was the deadliest slave revolt, they failed to successfully recruit other slaves; thus, it was hardly unsuccessful. Turner and his gang killed 59 whites and freed 70 slaves. Countless houses were burned down and all the institutions they were a part of were destroyed. Officially, the rebellion ended “when the rebels surrendered on October 2, 1831.”

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Brown’s rebellion was triggered as a revenge against pro-slavery men who raided the town of Lawrence, an anti-slavery town, on May 21, 1856. Many of the men involved in Brown’s rebellion were distraught over the attack. Brown gathered a small militia and headed back to Lawrence shortly after in order to prepare for a retaliatory raid on pro-slavery strongholds. The militia was met with resistance by pro-slavery fighters who had travelled from Missouri and overtook Brown’s makeshift militia, killing two of his sons. A few other skirmishes happened between Brown’s rebels and those aligned with pro-slavery factions but eventually all sides agreed to stop fighting as it could initiate a civil war amongst themselves in Bleeding Kansas. In 1859, Brown’s raid failed; however, six years later, slavery was declared illegal thus, making his dream realized.

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Turner and Brown both had great faith in God, and they believed they were instruments used by God’s will to fight against slavery in America. Both of them were eventually killed for their beliefs and the cause (Britt and Brian). David Walker notes that both men believed they would win with God’s help, but that they would mold the institution of slavery so as not to be employed by it, in order to make it obsolete. Both had no regrets about their actions as they believed they were fulfilling God’s will. The two also believed that by fighting against slavery, they would make it all go away, because they felt they were battling against something much greater than just slave owners could tolerate (Britt and Brian). Brown, who was religious as well, believed that he was destined to die in order to start the Civil War. Upon John Brown’s death, his son Jason said of him: “My father died for this cause, and he wanted all men redeemed from slavery.” (Britt and Brian). Nat Turner also felt that what he was doing was for the greater good of all in the end. Both men were unwilling to compromise on their views about slavery.

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One great way through which both Turner and Brown should be remembered is in art forms which symbolize the struggle of slavery in America. Art should marvelously illustrate the plight and rebellion of oppressed people as well as the turning point when their fight became righteous (Lentz). Examples of this may be seen in a painting of Nat Turner’s rebellion and the Boston Massacre. Both of these art forms display something profound; Nat Turner, who fought for freedom, is a hero whose legacy is that he tried to free his people, and John Brown, who fought for his rights as well as others’, was unjustly hanged for trying to do the right thing (Lentz). Nat Turner’s rebellion is also represented in the art form of a painting which symbolizes the events when slaves ran through the rows killing all they can see. Nat Turner’s rebellion is recorded through a painting titled, The Uprising by John Vanderlyn. This painting has been described as a “vigorous, action-packed representation” of the rebellion. In another painting, the slaves on horseback are being depicted as charging swiftly towards their owners. The slaves’ white shirts represent the blood shed by them during the revolt. In this way, art can recall history and should be used to teach lessons about slavery to those who did not necessarily know about it in America. Another way for remembering the two freedom fighters is by empowering the oppressed groups in the current society (Lentz). By doing so, we are not just remembering their heroic deeds but also helping their groups progress to a better future. The freedom fighters will also be remembered through determination in creating an independent society for their people. Brown and Turner had different motivations for fighting but both were motivated by the desire to liberate their people from bondage. The contribution to society of the freedom fighters should be remembered in various ways. One of these is the establishment of organization that fights for the rights of oppressed people in society. For example, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was established with one main agenda; to seek justice and equality for all people regardless of race. The creation of this organization was as a result of John Brown’s execution at Harper’s Ferry as well as Nat Turner’s rebellion throughout Virginia. Another way through which Nat Turner and John Brown can be remembered is by highlighting what they tried to achieve. by doing so, we are educating people on what they did to achieve their goal (Lentz). For example, Nat Turner’s rebellion was one of the bloodiest revolts based on his desire to free his people. The revolt led to the deaths of more than 60 whites with 200 blacks being captured and executed. John Brown’s attempt at Harper’s Ferry is also well-known in history and remembered for its major contribution towards the abolitionist movement in America. Through education about their contribution, people will be inspired by them, and this inspiration may lead towards a better future for oppressed groups both in the past and present.

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From the discussion, it is clear that Nat Turner and John Brown largely contributed to the evolution of freedom which is currently at a better state. Freedom fighter should be highly regarded and attributed for their action that were the main reason for the ban of slavery. Besides fighting against slavery, Turner and Brown motivated and inspired other slaves to fight for their justice which made it possible for them to gain independence from enslavement.

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Works Cited

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Britt, Brian. “Prophetic Perfectionism: The Afterlives of Nat Turner and John Brown.” Political Theology 21.1-2 (2020): 89-104. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1462317X.2020.1714167Lentz, Carola, and David Lowe. Remembering Independence. Routledge, 2018. https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/mono/10.4324/9781351203432/remembering-independence-carola-lentz-david-loweMcIlhone, Patrick Francis. A Contested Legacy: John Brown in American Art. Diss. Graduate Theological Union, 2021. https://search.proquest.com/openview/f499e702912a6a116d4817147be85e63/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=yTomlins, Christopher. “In the Matter of Nat Turner.” In the Matter of Nat Turner. Princeton University Press, 2020. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1515/9780691199870/html.

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