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Mississippi’s War and Nat Turner Documentaries Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Feb 22nd, 2022

Mississippi’s War: Slavery and Secession and Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property documentary explore the factors that caused the American Civil Warand the subsequent revolt by slaves. The Civil Waris one of the most debated topics across the US due to its impact on socio-economic and political domains. Scholars continue to examine the actual causes of the conflict to justify or refute existing details. Although politics played a significant role in triggering the civil war, the institution of slavery emerges as the most significant factor that caused it. Mississippi’s War documentary traces the history of slavery and its contribution to the American Civil War. On the other hand, Nat Turner’s documentary exemplifies how rebellious slaves intensified the drive for a revolution. Both documentaries discuss socio-economic and political issues that affected Americans before, during, and after the Civil War.

Foremost, slavery is a major issue discussed in Mississippi’s War and Nat Turner documentaries. The history of slavery in the US dates back to one-hundred years before the birth of the nation. British colonists arrived in America and started purchasing slaves to work on vast colonial plantations. The onset of the Revolutionary War inspired most of the American settlers to oppose the practice in their fight for freedom. Turner and a group of rebelling slaves heightened tension that spurred revolution in America. Mississippi’s War documentary discloses that some American Colonies outlawed servitude, which motivated the US to ban the importation of slaves after the American Revolution. Reforms enabled the newly formed nation to mitigate slavery, but the issue became rife with the gin’s invention in the late 18th century. This period witnessed the integration of slavery into economic goals across the Southern states; slave owners moved them from the upper South, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Maryland downward to work in cotton plantations.

Consequently, the issue of cotton and its contribution to the Civil War takes center stage in Mississippi’s War documentary. The arrival of slaves in Southern states, mainly Mississippi, accelerated cotton growth as the most productive crop. Plantation owners grew wealthy as the number of black laborers increased in Mississippi. As a result, Mississippi’s complexion changed and became the blackest state in the South. Although slaves toiled in large cotton plantations, they also worked as domestics, workers in industries and factories, construction of railroads, riverboats, and artisans of all kinds. However, the majority worked in cotton plantations, where they provided free or forced labor. The slaves’ input in the rise of cotton as the most economic cash crop was largely unnoticed; traders focused on the product rather than its cultivation or production process. Thus, plantation owners cited cotton as the reason for supporting the Civil War, but historians maintain that slavery was the underlying factor.

The interplay between cotton and slavery leads to political fallout between the northern and southern states and subsequent secession. The election of Abraham Lincoln caused fear and anxiety in the South since he was an abolitionist, and the southern states dominated in advancing slave labor. Mississippi became the center of resistance to the eradication of servitude and the election of Lincoln. Therefore, southern states started seceding from the Union after Lincoln’s election. It is worth noting that splitting states based their argument on freedom, rights, and the power to self-govern. Most of the Mississippians and other Southerners insisted on maintaining their right to self-govern in any way they saw suitable. The issue of state rights became a political theory invented by the southern states to defend their secession claims, but the underlying motive was to preserve slavery. White Southerners feared losing everything they owned, including money, property, and slaves.

Religion and violence are significant issues that emerge from both documentaries. In this regard, Christianity influences slave owners’ actions and enslaved workers in different industries, including cotton farming. Religious beliefs do not help slaves deal with their situation; it drives some of them into rebellion. Notably, southern states were overwhelmingly Christian, which compelled plantation owners to show some care toward the slaves. Plantation owners believed that the value they gained from the slaves largely depended on the respect accorded to the slaves. Thus, they defended slavery on Christianity grounds drawing from Protestant and Catholic faith as well as the Bible verse, “Slave obey your Masters.” Despite the acclamations, slaves experienced mistreatment on and off the farm.

Therefore, slaves used Christianity to justify their violence against whites. For instance, Nat Turner’s documentary explores violence inflicted on whites based on religious beliefs. Turner, the leader of the rebels, primarily responds to slavery by citing the Christian faith alluded to the loosened serpent. He believes that Christ had laid down the yoke, and it was his time to take it and fight against the serpent. Hence, slaves use the same Christian beliefs to attack their masters, which worsens their situation; rebelling captives were hanged and their heads cut off. Violence seems like the only option available for Turner to save other slaves from torment by white masters. However, it is not the only option for someone like Turner because state administrations could be compelled to abolish slavery irrespective of the time it would take.

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