ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

Home  ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)

Google
 

Online through PayPal

Or Send contributions to: ChickenBones: A Journal / 2005 Arabian Drive . Finksburg, MD 21048  Help Save ChickenBones

He needed a scribe to re-mark pages— / tales dispersed at home & afar—a means
for his reentry to the human fold. / His vision of Christ was unforgiving.

 

 

12 Sonnets in Memory of Nathaniel Turner 

Poet & Prophet of Southampton

By Rudolph Lewis

 

On 11 November (a Friday at high noon), 179 years ago (1831), Nathaniel Turner, the son of an African woman and his master Benjamin Turner, was executed by the state of Virginia for his leadership of a revolt against slavery in the town of Cross Keys in Southampton County, Virginia.

There has been much that has been written about Turner and his life, much that undermines his integrity and dignity and the truth of his life. I have over the last few months attempted to write a series of sonnets that explore his life, his work, and his vision.

We think this series of 12 poems may be an excellent means of teaching Turner's life and the role he played in reforming religion and political democracy in America. It is our desire to publish these poems as a chapbook for broad distribution. We now solicit your support in this project. Make your checks out to ChickenBones: A Journal and send your donations to the following address:

ChickenBones: A Journal / 2005 Arabian Drive / Finksburg, MD 21048

Rudolph Lewis, Founding Editor

ChickenBones: A Journal

www.nathanielturner.com

Loving That Other Man

 

Former-slaves built Jerusalem with hard

labor. But for their children today it

is no sanctuary from misery.

Fog thickens after a day of showers

& revelations. A full moon rises high.

Nathaniel Turner knew such an evening

as his Day of Reckoning came nearer

during August Revival. Like Baldwin

he knew men turn away from true being

for fleshly ecstasy—incest, & pride

in the marketing of hearts & souls—all 

for small comforts & manliness. I am

no naturalist. I know evil when

discovered wears the mask that glumly grins.

11 August 2006

*   *   *   *   *

Sonnet for 22 August 1831

 

If we slipped away unknown into dark

forests often as black men did so long

ago in secret coves like Booze Island

in the Loco woods & converse in tongues

dine on dripping hot roast pig, smoking yams

with moonshine & brandy, we could win all.

Nobody will know what we put down or

the cross we pick up. A faith communion

will fuel acts heroic—sacrificial.

Beyond our master’s grasp & driver’s whip,

free of fears & reckonings, wingéd flights

across the dark purple skies will birth a

bold love & a daring defiance. For

seven determined men can rock the world.

 

23 August 2006

*   *   *   *   *

Rivers Run Into Oceans

 

More than a month of dangerous nights in

the dark forest had come & gone since his

six men fell to bullets or from the rope.

Wooly heads without eyelids rested on

pikes at plantation crossroads; skeletons

left as signs of those pleasures taken by

fastidious insects, birds, dogs & men

lay in the woods—mothers, fathers, babies.

Those terrible hours on cool autumn days

still haunt their kinsmen after almost two

centuries. We’re under fence rails concealed

in a cave with God—tears fall for the dead.

The minstrel moments of servitude pass

as we embrace our turn for martyrdom.

 

28 September 2006

*   *   *   *   *

Meditations on the Moons

 

He hides out in the forest of Cross Keys

alone. The carnage has ended—only

sullen silence remains. The 2nd moon

since August Revival comes into view

 

from behind dark clouds. It’s not loneliness

or his belly that drives him to spy out

farmhouses nightly. He listens at doors

& windows. Darkness fills the candlelit

 

rooms. Masters have rekindled their slavish

routines: truth remains twisted as grapevines.

Soft breezes are in the autumn leaves. He

knows his work’s unfinished: he must rescue

 

sacramental blood that fell to earth by

sacrificing himself on the 3rd moon.

 

6 October 2006

 

*   *   *   *   *

Wanted Alive, Not Dead
 
He knew his blood must fall to earth like red
dew from heaven on leaves of corn. This debt
due he had to pay. The community
he loved would thrash him like wheat all along
the route—whips with nails; needle punctures; feet
fists thudding on yellow flesh; curses hurled.
 
This torment he must endure for their sake.
Cross Keys wanted to know the origins—
dust storming brigands on horseback hacking
away at white flesh—men, women, children.
 
He needed a scribe to re-mark pages—
tales dispersed at home & afar—a means
for his reentry to the human fold.
His vision of Christ was unforgiving.
 
 20 October 2006

*   *   *   *   *

Crickets Sing His Song

 

Clouds thicken dark over Jerusalem.

Winds come & go. A gust—pines dance, their limbs

of green needles sweeping the air. A breeze

in the pear tree shimmers the yellow leaves like

sweet love flesh. Crickets chirp by my window.

In his cell, the moon will not shine for him tonight

 

nor will stars twinkle through the jailhouse bars.

This is his second night in prison chained—

wrist & ankles. He desires no escape.

This was the destiny he freely chose.

 

His ruse was at work, & Mr. Tom Gray

had bought into his scheme—his visions shall

be broadcast near & far. His final sword

thrust into the Serpent is his death song.

 

31 October 2006

*   *   *   *   *

Drowning Noise with Silence

 

His mind moves to its fullness like the moon

that glows purple in his dark cell. He prays

without cease. He tracks back over the ground,

the metaphysical turf & prologue

 

he traversed after Thomas Gray stepped from

the autumn sun to the chirping chorus

of crickets crashing leaves by his window.

He thanks God he’s not like his white father

 

who sought to resolve slavery between

white sheets. . . . The pen waits to drum out echoes

of dead bones  in the shadows of madness. . . .

His tale is silent beats bleeding the stink

 

of church men—their death stamp on holiness.

His gospel blues won’t hang on rotting trees.

 

2 November 2006

 

*   *   *   *   *

Eyes Bound to Lies

 

The near full moon set & rose behind clouds

on his 2nd  interview. The crickets

were silent. The chilled air sharpened his mind

sharper than the razor edge of his sword.

 

His voyage through this hell was near complete.

The setting sun shone bright & cast shadows

through the bars onto Gray’s pen & paper.

In blue eyes the slaughter of children made

 

him blacker than a million sinister

midnights—children who’ll never sing sunlight

in the mad luxury of their whiteness.

This unholy fantasy stilled his heart.

 

He had crossed that Nottoway years ago:

black life falling, ever falling like leaves.

 

3 November 2006

 

*   *   *   *   *

 

Dying Echoes of Dead Words

 

This full moon frost night he will leave his cell

slipping from chains/shackles, like dirty clothes

& stroll the woods where the Spirit who speaks

to prophets—chastens men to sacrifice.

 

Hunting dogs will sense his haunting presence

whimper in their pens fearing his grandeur.

He will pass through fields of boll-filled white fleece

in purple light. Shadowed tombstones, symbols

 

of nigger luck, gained on black backs & blood:

owl wisdom will sound darkness with “Who? Whoooo?”

His father lies there. Fires will blaze tonight.

Smoke from chimneys will bellow to the stars.

 

They sleep cozy now with doom at their door.

Small rainbows glisten from the morning lawn.

 

4 November 2006

 

*   *   *   *   *

 

Birthed in a Conundrum

 

The heaven purples with stars twinkling clear

above this autumn forest. No sound stirs

this cold full moon silence. Frost thickens white

on leaves & grass in the blue hours before

 

midnight. He reads again Gray’s “Confessions.”

He sleeps soundly without dreams. Mockingbird

sings a sun overture. Jailers march him

from his cell. At the courthouse crows rally.

 

Icy-faced judges are suffused with guilt.

Their cave eyes are horror without remorse

. . .  mouths rusty hinges  that open & close.

This dark mirror mystery outrageous

 

is beyond their scalpels. They are losers—

his righteous spirit blossoms yet from thorns.

 

5 November 2006

*   *   *   *   *

Blues in the Cosmos

 

A star falls in the southern sky. Dogs bark

at the rising of the moon. The seasons

flip through the calendar pages quickly.

First the glow of autumn, then frost, showers

 

& then I’m sweating. The earth is soaked in

cosmic tears of joy & despair. The noose

shapes our destiny. Crickets sing. Rooster

crows before daybreak. Naked vibrations!

 

These are witnesses, a greater audience

than he who walks. They are no clockmaker

withdrawn, sightless, uncaring of a work

begun at eternity’s beginning.

 

We don’t come/go without signifying.

We’re healed when Mockingbird sings in the sun.

 

9 November 2006

 

*   *   *   *   *

 

40 Days & 40 Nights

 

We hovel, we slaves, trembling. It’s been weeks

since the sun shone clear, or the rising moon

appeared through the trees, when dew drops fell on

the blown, un-bagged brown leaves. It keeps raining.

 

The water keeps rising—the rain keeps falling.

They should’ve known, we all should’ve known, it’s no

routine stroll—picnic to hang a prophet,

a holy man, even Ben Turner’s boy.

 

The vault of heaven turned black, clouds & winds

gathered—the black sky cracked, the earth rumbled

when he fell from the rope and hung still like

a scarecrow. In fright the gathering scattered.

 

The surgeons keep busy with their scalpels

while we wade gospel waters of end time.

 

10 November 2006

*   *   *   *   *

Slave leader's Bible given to museum18 February 2012For a century, the descendants of one of Virginia's oldest families have kept a Bible that connected them to Nat Turner, the slave who led the bloodiest slave revolt in American history. Maurice Person, a descendant of people who were killed during the Turner rebellion, and his stepdaughter, Wendy Porter, decided to give the small Bible to the National Museum of African American History and Culture."It didn't have the home it deserved. It needed to be in a place where it could be seen," Porter said.

Members of Person's family and the Francis family were among the estimated 55 white Virginians killed by Turner and his followers. One of the family members, Lavinia Francis, was hidden by the Francises' house slaves. The gift launched an investigation by museum experts to pinpoint the Bible's origins. They knew its provenance—kept in the courthouse after Turner's trial and execution in 1831. When Virginia's Southampton County Courthouse was being renovated in 1912, an official asked the Person family whether it wanted Turner's Bible. Person's father, Walter, accepted the book and displayed it on the family piano for many years. Later, the family put it in a safe-deposit box. . . .

Even with the ownership clear, the museum did its due diligence. A photograph of the Bible, identified as Turner's, was taken in 1900 and is part of the archives at the University of Virginia. An affidavit in 1969 by Harriet E. Francis, a descendant of Lavinia Francis, is also part of the university archives.

Nora Lockshin, a paper conservator for the Smithsonian Institution Archives, examined the paper, leather, ink and arrangement of the pages. The book, which is a little larger than pocket-size, is missing both covers, part of its spine and one chapter. Its pages are yellowed, and there are watermarks and mold. Because of its age, it cannot be opened flat. "The paper is in good shape, and it is a good, strong rag paper," Lockshin said. She enhanced the 1900 photograph, matching the page in the photo to a page in the book. "It matched the pattern of stains." With the Turner Bible, Bunch said, the museum will tell many stories about the resistance to slavery and the compassion of slaves.—NewsLeader 

*   *   *   *   *

Nathaniel Turner

Christian Martyrdom in Southampton 

A Theology of Black Liberation

By Rudolph Lewis

*   *   *   *   *

Nathaniel Turner, the Bible, & the Sword

A  Reconsideration of the 1831 “Confessions”

 By Rudolph Lewis

Biblical Scholars, Theologians & Other Commentators

on Nathaniel Turner of Southampton

Compiled by Rudolph Lewis

 

Nathaniel of Southampton or Balaam’s Ass

God’s Revelations in the Virginia Wilderness

 By Rudolph Lewis

*   *   *   *   *

AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

Fiction

#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter

Non-fiction

#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

Life on Mars

By Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection's "lyric brilliance" and "political impulses [that] never falter." A New York Times review stated, "Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we're alone in the universe; it's to accept—or at least endure—the universe's mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith's pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the book’s first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant." Life on Mars follows Smith's 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet's second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans. The Body’s Question (2003) was her first published collection.

Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.

*   *   *   *   *

Malcolm X

A Life of Reinvention

By Manning Marable

Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins' bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.

Manning Marable's new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties.

Reaching into Malcolm's troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents' activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

*   *   *   *   *

Ratification

The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788

By Pauline Maier

A notable historian of the early republic, Maier devoted a decade to studying the immense documentation of the ratification of the Constitution. Scholars might approach her book’s footnotes first, but history fans who delve into her narrative will meet delegates to the state conventions whom most history books, absorbed with the Founders, have relegated to obscurity. Yet, prominent in their local counties and towns, they influenced a convention’s decision to accept or reject the Constitution. Their biographies and democratic credentials emerge in Maier’s accounts of their elections to a convention, the political attitudes they carried to the conclave, and their declamations from the floor. The latter expressed opponents’ objections to provisions of the Constitution, some of which seem anachronistic (election regulation raised hackles) and some of which are thoroughly contemporary (the power to tax individuals directly). —Booklist

*   *   *   *   *

Race, Incarceration, and American Values

By Glenn C. Loury

In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lens—and as a legacy—of an ugly and violent racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because we have become increasingly punitive. According to Loury, the disproportionately black and brown prison populations are the victims of civil rights opponents who successfully moved the country's race dialogue to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime. Loury's claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear.

Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an inert ballast in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people; and Harvard philosophy professor

Shelby urges citizens to break with Washington's political outlook on race. The group's respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming.—Publishers Weekly

*  *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

*   *   *   *   *

Ancient African Nations

*   *   *   *   *

If you like this page consider making a donation

online through PayPal

*   *   *   *   *

Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues


1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        

Enjoy!

*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

*   *   *   *   *

The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

ChickenBones Store (Books, DVDs, Music, and more)

 

  

 

 

 

update 26 February 2012

 

 

 

Home   Nathaniel Turner Page  Christian Martyrdom in Southampton Lynching Index