But from the world of myth--a world which I believe to be just as important as the historical--the evidence is rich. This slave song for instance is beautiful not simply in its rendering, but in all the space it leaves for our interpretations:
You might be rich as creamAnd drive a coach and four-horse team,But you can't keep the world from moving round.Nor keep Nat Turner from gaining ground.And your name it might be Caesar sureAnd you got your cannon can shoot a mile or more,But you can't keep the world from moving roundNor Nat Turner from gaining ground.
The inference here, is that freedom is a kind of destiny for black people, that Nat Turner in death is "gaining ground," that he represents something more than his physical self. I am reminded of Douglass argument that the Civil War would ultimately become a war on slavery because it was dictated by the "inexorable logic of events."
Questions for further reading: Enslaved black people lived in a world where "freedom" was the norm. We know that unfreedom was the actual norm in the 17th and 18th century for much of the world. Is it "Western" or "American" to feel that freedom is destiny, that there is no power on earth that can stop "Nat Turner from gaining ground?" And surely some African-Americans in Virginia deeply resented Turner's actions, given that it was met with a wave of repression. Was that frustration transmitted in the mythology? Or do such memories (much like the memory of the loyalist during the Revolutionary War) vanish as they become inconvenient to the times?
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