Timeline

1831

November 11th, 1831

Nat Turner Hanged in Virginia

Nat Turner was an enslaved black man who lived in Southampton, Virginia. A religious leader who ministered to both whites and fellow enslaved blacks, Turner studied the Bible fervently and often reported having divine visions. He was inspired to plan a rebellion by visions that he interpreted as calls to revolt against plantation owners. On August 21, 1831, Turner led a group of his most trusted followers on attacks against various plantations, recruiting other enslaved blacks along the way. Armed with firearms and tools, their ranks swelled to between 60 and 70 fighters. Turner and his followers killed nearly 60 whites before they were confronted and defeated by a militia. Many of the rebels were killed or captured immediately; Turner escaped and hid in a cave near his former plantation but was captured by a local farmer on October 30, 1831.

Although Turner insisted there was no conspiracy to lead attacks in any area outside of Southampton, enraged and fearful slavery advocates throughout Virginia were convinced that the rebellion was intended to expand across the state and wanted Turner harshly punished as an example to others who might be inspired by his efforts. On November 11, 1831, after a swift trial and conviction, Turner was hanged in Jerusalem, Virginia. Up to 30 other black participants in the revolt also were executed for insurrection and in the months after the rebellion, angry white mobs tortured and murdered hundreds of blacks who had not participated in the revolt. In response to renewed fears of uprising, Virginia and other slavery states passed laws prohibiting blacks from assembling freely, conducting independent religious services, and learning to read and write.

1993

November 11th, 1993

Disney Announces Plan for Virginia Amusement Park to Recreate Slavery

On November 11, 1993, the Walt Disney Company announced plans for a new theme park, Disney’s America, which would “allow guests to celebrate the diversity of the nation, the plurality and conflicts that have defined the American character” on a 3000 acre site in Prince William County in northern Virginia. Plans for the park, located near the Manassas Civil War battlefields, included a Civil War fort, a Native American Indian village, and a Civil War era village. Describing the park’s proposed attractions, Bob Weis, vice president of Disney’s creative division, said, “We want to make you a Civil War soldier. We want to make you feel what it was like to be a slave or what it was like to escape through the underground railroad.”

In the small town of Thoroughfare, near the location Disney intended to construct exhibitions depicting slave life, grandchildren of slaves continued to live and work the land their ancestors had inherited following the end of the Civil War. In response to Disney’s plans, Courtney Gallop-Johnson founded the Black History Action Coalition, comprised of “African Americans who share a grave concern with Disney's plan to portray slavery as part of a theme park.” Said Ms. Gallop-Johnson of the proposed slavery exhibitions, “We don't think that it is a historically dignified or accurate portrayal, or suitable fare for an amusement park.” Disney’s then-chairman, Michael Eisner, responded to such criticism by saying that they were not “going to put people in chains.”

In September 1994, facing opposition from critics who were concerned that the park would vulgarize history, pollute the surrounding area, and detract from nearby historical sites, Disney decided to abandon its plans for the Virginia park.