Scene four it is saturday night august 20 one of ben

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Scene four: It is Saturday night, August 20. One of Ben Edwards’sslaves—a man named Isham—takes another slave aside and whispers,“General Nat is going to rise and murder all the whites.” They mustjoin him, Isham says. Otherwise the white people will kill them both.20It is impossible to say how many such scenes transpired in that fatefulweek. A majority of Southampton’s slaves probably knew little ornothing about Nat’s designs. But available records do suggest thatseveral Negroes both in Southampton and in adjoining counties inVirginia and North Carolina received word that something apocalypticwas in the wind, but did not know when or how Nat intended to move.No doubt they reacted like the slaves on Parker’s farm: if Nat cametheir way, they would rise with him and fight against the whites. If not,they would continue day-to-day resistance, sabotaging plows, fakingsickness, and acting lazy.21Meanwhile, in other parts of Virginia, slaves who knew nothing aboutNat Turner, nothing at all, protested their condition in the usual ways.At praise meetings throughout the whole summer of that year, blackpreachers sounded the trumpets of despair and discontent. And inPrince William, Stafford, and King George counties along the PotomacRiver, in the sweltering stone quarries there, the slaves sang a spiritualcalled “The African Hymn,” composed by the Reverend ShadrackBassett. The lyrics were more prophetic than the slaves in northernVirginia could have known:We shall not always weep and groanAnd wear these slavish chains of woe,There’s a better day that’s comingCome and go along with me.Good Lord, O when shall slavery ceaseAnd these poor souls enjoy their peace,Good Lord, break the power.Come and go along with me.56
O! come, ye Africans, be wiseWe’ll join the armies in the skies!We’ll ruin Satan’s kingdomCome and go along with me.King Jesus now comes riding in,He bids his army sound again.They will ruin Satan’s kingdomCome and go along with me.I will pursue my journey’s end,For Jesus Christ is still my friend,O, may this friend go with me.Come and go along with me—Go sound the Jubilee.2257
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Part ThreeJUDGMENT DAY
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Sunday, August 21, dawned warm and clear in Richmond, with a scentof burning wood in the wind. Richmond’s dirt streets, rutted and dung-ridden, were crowded this morning as white and slave families gatheredin the capital to visit, hear preaching, and picnic on the grassy common.Of course the shops and markets—and the slave auction blocks—wereclosed this morning in observance of the Sabbath.Over in the Executive Mansion, situated near the armory and Capitolbuilding, Governor John Floyd made a brief diary entry about theweather and prepared to spend a quiet, leisurely Sunday. Now forty-eight years old, Floyd was a physician in politics, a refined, cranky in-dividual, of somewhat delicate health, who carried a singular dislikefor illiterate politicians—especially if they were United States Senators.

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