On the evening of August 21, 1831, Nat Turner and six men launched their infamous rebellion against slaveholders. The rebels swept through Southampton County, Virginia, recruiting slaves to their ranks and killing nearly five dozen whites - more than had ever been killed in any slave revolt in American history. Although a hastily assembled group of whites soon suppressed the violence, its repercussions had far-reaching consequences.
In The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood, Patrick H. Breen uses the dramatic events in Southampton to explore the terrible choices faced by members of the local black community as they considered joining the rebels, a choice that would likely cost them their lives; supporting their masters; or somehow avoiding taking sides. Combining fast-paced narrative with rigorous analysis, Breen shows how, as whites regained control, slaveholders created an account of the revolt that saved their slaves from white retribution, the most dangerous threat facing the slaveholders' human property. By probing the stories slaveholders told that allowed them to get nonslaveholders to protect slave property, The Land Shall Be Deluged in Blood reveals something surprising about both the fragility and power of slavery.
©2015 Oxford University Press (P)2015 Audible, Inc.
Breen offers an insightful re-examination of the Nat Turner rebellion. He is unflinching but not sensationalist in his presentation of the violence of the rebellion and the white retaliation. His focus is on the complex motives of the participants. He places the rebels within the antebellum African American anti-slavery movement which drew on both spirituality and American political philosophy (the revolt was originally scheduled for July 4.). Local blacks, however, had to consider the rebellion as members of families and communities, well aware of the history of failed slave rebellions and white retaliation. Whites were divided between those committed to protecting their investment in human property and non-slaveholders who often saw blacks as a threat to be eliminated. Breen offers a well-written and insightful portrayal of slave resistance and the complicated racial and class dynamics of the antebellum South.
Free is one of my favorite narrators. His general narration is great and he fluidly shifts accent and tone to bring to life the many quoted sources. I think a wide audience of listeners will enjoy this reading.
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