As the old cliché goes, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” The phrase has been around forever, it seems, and sometimes it can be true, I suppose. There are always exceptions to every rule. But most of the time, a terrorist is simply a terrorist, a person who uses extreme violence and fear to achieve a political or social objective. And make no mistake, Nat Turner, who led a bloody slave revolt in Virginia in 1831, was a terrorist.
To this irrefutable fact Turner freely admitted without hesitation in an interview with attorney Thomas R. Gray, who was allowed into Turner’s jail cell after his capture. In Gray’s work, The Confessions of Nat Turner, published soon after Turner’s execution, the accused rebel confessed that “my object [was] to carry terror and devastation wherever we went” and to “strike terror to the inhabitants.”
As Gray wrote of the cold, calculating fanatic before him, “The calm, deliberate composure with which he spoke of his late deed and intentions, the expression of his fiend-like face when excited by enthusiasm, still bearing the stains of the blood of helpless innocence about him; clothed with rags and covered with chains; yet daring …
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