Nat Turner

Nat Turner

Nat Turner was a renowned African-American known for leading the 1831 slave rebellion to free blacks in Southampton County, Virginia, after being subjected to slavery himself. He started a revolt among the black slave followers to free their brother on several plantations. They gained more arms and horses with each raid on plantation. Afterwards, they were accused of 50 white civilians’ death and the Virginia legislation began to target free blacks as well with a colonization bill implicating their freedom once again with sale and relocation. In their rage and fear of uprising, white Americans organized troops and attacked the blacks resulting in over 150 deaths regardless of their involvement in the slave rebellion.

Turner was born into slavery on October 2, 1800 in Southampton County, Virginia. His master Benjamin Turner named him Nat and upon his death Nat’s ownership was transferred to Benjamin’s brother Samuel. During Civil War era he was referred to as Nathaniel according to the sources. He didn’t know much about his father as he reportedly escaped from slavery when Turner was young. He spent most of his life in Southampton County, Virginia, a plantation area. The place was mostly populated by the enslaved laborers. Turner was a highly intelligent person who learned to read and write at a very young age. Moreover, he had deep religious sentiments and was often seen praying, fasting and reading bible. His spirituality enabled him to have these visions which he interpreted as messages from God. These visions had a great impact on his understanding of life and which led to his return to his owner after running away a month before. His followers labeled him ‘The Prophet’, as he often conducted baptizing services and preached bible to his fellow slaves.

In 1928, Nat Turner had a realization that he was ordained for some great purpose and later it turned out to be the freedom of his fellow salves. He started to interpret weather as a sign from God to begin revolt against their owners. In early 1831, an annular solar eclipse was seen in Virginia which Turner saw as a sign to prepare an uprising. He waited till Independence Day to strike but had to further postpone the rebellion due to his illness. Then there was another solar eclipse which quickened Turner’s plan. Thus the uprising began on August 21. The message of initiating the rebellion was communicated through songs in the village and soon around 70 black slaves gathered in the woods and from there they went on from plantation to plantation to free their enslaved brothers.

So as not to alert the enemies of their presence, they carried out their attacks through knives, hatchets, axes, and blunt objects. The assault went so far as they killed 60 white people without discrimination of age and gender. They spared the poor whites as they were treated no better than the blacks. Nat Turner was driven by the single-minded goal to free the blacks that he didn’t even mind resorting to violence. He thought it would help the whites to see the cruelty of their act of slave-holding. However, the rebellion was suppressed within two days. Turner evaded the capture by hiding out in the woods but was eventually found in a hole covered with fence rails. Upon his confession to having knowledge of rebellion, he was tried and hanged for conspiring to rebel and making insurrection on November 11, 1831.

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