Rains on Me

Published:October 21, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

Speaking of Gabriel’s Conspiracy … in their August 1972 issue, the editors of Ebony magazine paid tribute to “The Black Male.” Alas, Gabriel, who plotted a slave uprising in Henrico County in 1800, did not make the list of “Ten Greats of Black History,” although Nat Turner, whose plot was not thwarted by a driving rainstorm, did.

However, Gabriel was mentioned prominently in another article, provocatively titled “‘Crazy N—-s’ Then And Now: Exploding ‘docile sheep’ myth, defiant, daring black men revolt against injustice in multitude of ways.” Gabriel was just such a man, apparently, “angry enough or alive enough to demand relief from racial grief.” He was like

any committed yet suppressed black man determined to risk all—to get out or to get others out. But white folks, who thought, all those years ago, that black men were docile sheep, didn’t understand such an individual. And black folks, who understood him too well, wondered how he had survived as long as he had. When they allowed themselves to think of him at all, both folks, one with fear and the other with secret pride, called him “that crazy n—-“—the one who dared to suggest to anybody who would sit still long enough to listen: “I am a man.”


IMAGE: Detail of a man and boy being baptized during a driving rain; photograph by John White (Ebony, August 1972)