Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community

Univ. of Illinois. Jul. 2021. 184p. ISBN 9780252085857. pap. $22.95. HIST
While awaiting trial on charges of insurrection and murder, Nat Turner gave testimony to his lawyer that later became The Confessions of Nat Turner, a sensationalized pamphlet that cemented his place, and that of his male co-conspirators, in one of the most consequential uprisings by enslaved people in the American South. In this, her first book, Holden challenges us to reconsider Turner’s 1831 rebellion by focusing on the women and children involved in and affected by it. Only a handful of enslaved and free Black women were officially accused in court documentation, but many others aided rebels by communicating across farms or cooking for meals for them; Holden documents how these women navigated “geographies of surveillance and control” their entire lives. The book explains the significant role that enslaved boys played in the rebellion, and how their youth complicated the possibility of convicting them. It also examines how the insurrection and its aftermath upended the lives of enslaved and free Black Americans for decades to come; many lost loved ones and were left to navigate the resulting reign of white backlash and terror.
VERDICT An important new perspective on the Turner rebellion for readers of Black U.S.history.
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