Nat Turner Rebellion

Nat Turner Rebellion

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The late insurrection in Southampton has greatly excited the public mind, and led to a thousand idle, exaggerated and mischievous reports. It is the first instance in our history of an open rebellion of the slaves, and attended with such atrocious circumstances of cruelty and destruction, as could not fail to leave a deep impression, not only upon the minds of the community where this fearful tragedy was wrought, but throughout every portion of our country, in which this population is to be found. Public curiosity has been on the stretch to understand the origin and progress of this dreadful conspiracy, and the motives which influences its diabolical actors. The insurgent slaves had all been destroyed, or apprehended, tried and executed, (with the exception of the leader,) without revealing any thing at all satisfactory, as to the motives which governed them, or the means by which they expected to accomplish their object.

Every thing connected with this sad affair was wrapt in mystery, until Nat Turner, the leader of this ferocious band, whose name has resounded throughout our widely extended empire, was captured. This "great Bandit" was taken by a single individual, in a cave near the residence of his late owner, on Sunday, the thirtieth of October, without attempting to make the slightest resistance, and on the following day safely lodged in the jail of the County. His captor was Benjamin Phipps, armed with a shot gun well charged. Nat's only weapon was a small light sword which he immediately surrendered, and begged that his life might be spared. Since his confinement, by permission of the Jailor, I have had ready access to him, and finding that he was willing to make a full and free confession of the origin, progress and consummation of the insurrectory movements of the slaves of which he was the contriver and head.

I was thirty-one years of age the 2nd of October last, and born the property of Benjamin Turner, of this county. In my childhood a circumstance occurred which made an indelible impression on my mind, and laid the ground work of that enthusiasm, which has terminated so fatally to many, both white and black, and for which I am about to atone at the gallows. It is here necessary to relate this circumstance - trifling as it may seem, it was the commencement of that belief which has grown with time, and even now, sir, in this dungeon, helpless and forsaken as I am, I cannot divest myself of.

Being at play with other children, when three or four years old, I was telling them something, which my mother overhearing, said it had happened before I was I born - I stuck to my story, however, and related somethings which went, in her opinion, to confirm it--others being called on were greatly astonished, knowing that these things had happened, and caused them to say in my hearing, I surely would be a prophet, as the Lord had shown me things that had happened before my birth. And my father and mother strengthened me in this my first impression, saying in my presence, I was intended for some great purpose, which they had always thought from certain marks on my head and breast.

My master, who belonged to the church, and other religious persons who visited the house, and whom I often saw at prayers, noticing the singularity of my manners, I suppose, and my uncommon intelligence for a child, remarked I had too much sense to be raised, and if I was, I would never be of any service to any one as a slave. To a mind like mine, restless, inquisitive and observant of every thing that was passing, it is easy to suppose that religion was the subject to which it would be directed. The manner in which I learned to read and write, not only had great influence on my own mind, as I acquired it with the most perfect ease, so much so, that I have no recollection whatever of learning the alphabet--but to the astonishment of the family, one day, when a book was sewn me to keep me from crying, I began spelling the names of different objects - this was a source of wonder to all in the neighborhood, particularly the blacks - and this learning was constantly improved at all opportunities.

When I got large enough to go to work, while employed, I was reflecting on many things that would present themselves to my imagination, and whenever an opportunity occurred of looking at a book, when the school children were getting their lessons, I would find many things that the fertility of my own imagination had depicted to me before; all my time, not devoted to my master's service, was spent either in prayer, or in making experiments in casting different things in moulds made of earth, in attempting to make paper, gunpowder, and many other experiments, that although I could not perfect, yet convinced me of its practicability if I had the means.

We remained at the feast until about two hours in the night, when we went to the house and found Austin; they all went to the cider press and drank, except myself. On returning to the house, Hark went to the door with an axe, for the purpose of breaking it open, as we knew we were strong enough to murder the family, if they were awaked by the noise; but reflecting that it might create an alarm in the neighborhood, we determined to enter the house secretly, and murder them whilst sleeping. Hark got a ladder and set it against the chimney, on which I ascended, and hoisting a window, entered and came down stairs, unbarred the door, and removed the guns from their places.

It was then observed that I must spill the first blood. On which, armed with a hatchet, and accompanied by Will, I entered my master's chamber, it being dark, I could not give a death blow, the hatchet glanced from his head, he sprang from the bed and called his wife, it was his last word, Will laid him dead, with a blow of his axe, and Mrs. Travis shared the same fate, as she lay in bed. The murder of this family, five in number, was the work of a moment, not one of them awoke; there was a little infant sleeping in a cradle, that was forgotten, until we had left the house and gone some distance, when Henry and Will returned and killed it; we got here, four guns that would shoot, and several old muskets, with a pound or two of powder.

We remained some time at the barn, where we paraded; I formed them in a line as soldiers, and after carrying them through all the manoeuvres I was master of, marched them off to Mr. Salathul Francis', about six hundred yards distant. Sam and Will went to the door and knocked. Mr. Francis asked who was there, Sam replied, it was him, and he had a letter for him, on which he got up and came to the door, they immediately seized him, and dragging him out a little from the door, he was dispatched by repeated blows on the head; there was no other white person in the family. We started from there for Mrs. Reese's, maintaining the most perfect silence on our march, where finding the door unlocked, we entered, and murdered Mrs. Reese in her bed, while sleeping; her son awoke, but it was only to sleep the sleep of death, he had only time to say who is that, and he was no more.

Not far from this time Nat Turner's insurrection broke out; and the news threw our town into great commotion. Strange that they should be alarmed when their slaves were so "contented and happy"! But so it was.

By sunrise, people were pouring in from every quarter within twenty miles of the town. I knew the houses were to be searched; and I expected it would be done by country bullies and the poor whites. The men were divided into companies of sixteen, each headed by a captain. Orders were given, and the wild scouts rushed in every direction, wherever a colored face was to be found.

It was a grand opportunity for the low whites, who had no negroes of their own to scourge. They exulted in such a chance to exercise a little brief authority, and show their subservience to the slaveholders; not reflecting that the power which trampled on the colored people also kept themselves in poverty, ignorance, and moral degradation. Those who never witnessed such scenes can hardly believe what I know was inflicted at this time on innocent men, women, and children, against whom there was not the slightest ground for suspicion.

Colored people and slaves who lived in remote parts of the town suffered most. In some cases the searchers scattered powder and shot among their clothes, and then sent other parties to find them, and bring them forward as proof that they were plotting insurrection. Every where men, women, and children were whipped till the blood stood in puddles at their feet. Some received five hundred lashes; others were tied hands and feet, and tortured with a bucking paddle, which blisters the skin terribly.

All day long these unfeeling wretches went round, like a troop of demons, terrifying and tormenting the helpless. At night, they formed themselves into patrol bands, and went wherever they chose among the colored people, acting out their brutal will. Many women hid themselves in woods and swamps, to keep out of their way. If any of the husbands or fathers told of these outrages, they were tied up to the public whipping post, and cruelly scourged for telling lies about white men.

About eighteen months after I came to the city of Richmond, an extraordinary occurence took place which caused great excitement all over the town. I did not then know precisely what was the cause of this excitement, for I could got no satisfactory information from my master, only he said that some of the slaves had plotted to kill their owners. I have since learned that it was the famous Nat Turner's insurrection. Many slaves were whipped, hung, and cut down with the swords in the streets; and some that were found away from their quarters after dark, were shot; the whole city was in the utmost excitement, and the whites seemed terrified beyond measure. Great numbers of slaves were loaded with irons; some were half hung as it was termed - that is they were suspended from some tree with a rope about their necks, so adjusted as not quite to strangle them - and then they were pelted by men and boys with rotten eggs. This half-hanging is a refined species of punishment peculiar to slaves! This insurrection took place some distance from the city, and was the occasion of the enacting of that law by which more than five slaves were forbidden to meet together unless they were at work; and also of that, for the silencing all coloured preachers.

The patriotic Nathaniel Turner was goaded to desperation by wrong and injustice. By Despotism, his name has been recorded on the list of infamy, but future generations will number him upon the noble and brave.

This is the context in which we need to consider slaves' physical resistance. They did so most spectacularly in the Haitian revolution of 1791. Yet that revolt was exceptional, in scale and success. More common were unsuccessful slave uprisings (notably in Jamaica - helped, like Haiti, by local geography). In rugged terrain, in mountainous islands or in South American settlements where the vast interior beckoned, rebellious slaves might secure an untraceable escape. In such places, maroon communities of runaway slaves evolved into independent black communities which were fiercely resistant to white attack and proud of their independence. In some slave colonies, such escape routes were impossible. Where, for example, could runaways escape to on the small island of Barbados?

Nevertheless, slave revolts flared up throughout the Americas. Even in North America - where slave violence was noticeably less frequent and widespread - slave revolts periodically erupted: South Carolina (1739), French Louisiana (1763), Virginia (1800), Charleston (1822) and Nat Turner's rebellion in Virginia in 1831.

The Caribbean islands were homes to slave violence of an altogether different kind. It was no coincidence that in the islands (and Brazil) Africans dominated the slave quarters until the late years of slavery. Time and again, slave violence had to be put down by that characteristic mix of plantocratic repression and help from the resident military. The European naval presence enabled white society to move men and arms relatively quickly from one trouble spot to another. Indeed, the dependence of local whites on outside military assistance against the slaves weighed heavily, in 1776, when some voices were raised in support of the rebellious North American colonists. West Indian whites, unlike their North American counterparts, simply could not manage without metropolitan help when facing the slaves.

Just Who Was Rebelling in Nat Turner's Rebellion?

The very name &ldquoNat Turner&rsquos Rebellion&rdquo suggests it was one revolt, of men, led by one man. Historian Vanessa M. Holden argues otherwise in a new book she&rsquoll discuss in a virtual event Thursday at 6 p.m. (Free Library of Virginia register at

The August 1831 uprising, she writes in &ldquoSurviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner&rsquos Community,&rdquo was that of an entire community in Southampton County &mdash and understanding it opens new ways of understanding the revolt.

An advance look at Holden&rsquos book suggests her talk will be illuminating. She explores &ldquohuman geographies&rdquo &mdash spaces in which people operated, physical and otherwise. Enslavers, land owners and officials used systems to surveil and control the labor and movement of African Americans. During the revolt, enslaved women passed information and provided sustenance, and were present when whites were murdered. Free women of color created post-rebellion survival strategies. Free and enslaved children, with their mobility, were part of the rebels&rsquo strategy and recruiting. Trial records showed enslavers&rsquo dominance &mdash and Black resistance. And the area&rsquos Black communities preserved the memory of the revolt, and ways of resistance and survival.

Nat Turner (1800-1831)

Nathaniel “Nat” Turner was born in Southampton County, Virginia on October 2, 1800, the son of slaves owned by Benjamin Turner, a prosperous farmer. Taught to read by the son of his owner, Turner studied Christianity which he interpreted as condemning slavery. Turner also began to believe that God had chosen him to free his people from slavery. He soon became known among fellow slaves as “The Prophet.”

Turner was sold to slaveholder Joseph Travis in 1830. Less than a year after the sale, Turner received what he assumed was a sign from God when he witnessed the eclipse of the sun. After sharing this experience with a few close friends, they began to plan an insurrection. While still planning the uprising, Turner saw that the color of the sun had changed to a bluish-green, which he believed was the final sign to initiate the uprising. With this confidence, Turner and seven other slaves moved forward with their plans. They first murdered the entire Travis family and eventually fifty whites in the futile effort to incite a general slave uprising. Only 75 slaves and free blacks joined the rebellion.

They were soon pursued by over 3,000 members of the state militia. Turner and his followers were confronted by militiamen. One was killed and the others were captured. The rebellion was over in 48 hours. Turner escaped and eluded Virginia authorities for two months but was finally captured and tried for insurrection and murder. He was executed six days after his trial on November 5, 1831. In retaliation for the abortive rebellion, nearly two hundred innocent slaves were killed.

Although Nat Turner did not end slavery as he may have hoped, he nonetheless shook the institution to its core. Pro-slavery advocates began calling for greater restrictions on free blacks and slaves in the South and made more demands on Northern whites to cease their interference with the servile institution. Northern abolitionists, however, viewed the uprising differently and intensified their efforts to end slavery throughout the nation.

Nat Turner’s Rebellion, 1831

In the early hours of August 22, 1831, a slave named Nat Turner led more than fifty followers in a bloody revolt in Southampton, Virginia, killing nearly 60 white people, mostly women and children. The local authorities stopped the uprising by dawn the next day. They captured or killed most of the insurgents, although Turner himself managed to avoid capture for sixty days.

Even though Turner and his followers had been stopped, panic spread across the region. In the days following the attack, 3000 soldiers, militia men, and vigilantes killed more than one hundred suspected rebels. In a letter written a month later from North Carolina, Nelson Allyn described the retaliation against African Americans:

"The insurrection of the blacks have made greate disturbance here every man is armd with a gun by his bed nights and in the field at work a greate many of the blacks have been shot there heads taken of stuck on poles at the forkes of rodes some been hung, some awaiting there trial in several countys, 6 in this county I expect to see them strecht ther trial nex week there is no danger of their rising again here."

Nineteen of the thirty who had been arrested were convicted and executed. The rest, along with 300 free blacks from Southampton County, agreed to be exiled to Liberia in Africa. Turner was hanged on November 11, 1831.

Nat Turner&rsquos rebellion led to the passage of a series of new laws. The Virginia legislature actually debated ending slavery, but chose instead to impose additional restrictions and harsher penalties on the activities of both enslaved and free African Americans. Other slave states followed suit, restricting the rights of free and enslaved blacks to gather in groups, travel, preach, and learn to read and write.

The Haitian Revolution

The most successful slave rebellion in history, the Haitian Revolution began as a slave revolt and ended with the founding of an independent state. The main insurrection started in 1791 in the valuable French colony of Saint-Domingue. Inspired in part by the egalitarian philosophy of the French Revolution, black slaves launched an organized rebellion, killing thousands of whites and burning sugar plantations en route to gaining control of the northern regions of Saint-Domingue.

The unrest would continue until February 1794, when the French government officially abolished slavery in all its territories. The famed rebel general Toussaint Louverture then joined forces with French Republicans and by 1801 had established himself as governor of the island. But when Napoleon Bonaparte’s imperial forces captured Louverture in 1802 and attempted to reinstate slavery, the former slaves took up arms once again. Led by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, in 1803 they defeated French forces at the Battle of Vertières. The following year the former slaves declared their independence and established the island as the new republic of Haiti. News of the first successful rebellion—the only slave uprising in history to end with the foundation of a new country—went on to inspire countless other revolts throughout the United States and the Caribbean.

Untold Truth About The Nat Turner Rebellion

We may assume that the story of Nat Turner was told to us in full, but a closer look inside of the hidden spectrums of history determines otherwise. Here are very intricate details to the untold informative accounts of what is hidden in plain site.

Nat Turner was a motivational religious preacher born in Southampton County Virginia on October 2 1800.

He led a slave rebellion group of people that slaughtered the lives of their kidnappers, or how history likes to title them, slave masters.

According to many records and a novel, the European settlers described the famous rebellion act of Nat Turner, as one of the same aftermaths of the Indian slave rebellions that they were encountering since 1712, well over 100 years prior to Nat Turner’s rebellion describing their actions as gruesome, gory, vicious and ungodly.

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Bodies were viciously hacked up and left on the grounds to hang, all while decaying body parts were being picked by vultures. Including all of their slave master’s family members. Men, women and their children and infants. Not leaving a single life to live as they savagely saw fit.

It was the very same actions that Nat Turner discovered all while traveling throughout the Common Weath of Virginia, all along the reservation of the Powhatan Nation, granted with his slave master’s permission due to being a preacher of different surrounding counties.

In 2015, as part of the 15th anniversary of the 1954 Supreme Court Desegregation Decision, the state of Virginia instituted a Civil Rights And Education Heritage Tour located on the reservation of the Powhatan Nation in Southampton.

The Common Weath started a driving tour that takes you through the southside of Virginia, in the middle of a fore, traveling to witness the grave sites of the Native Aborigines known as Indian slaves at that time of burial.

Tourist attractions in Fort Christiana are presented along with the area in which the Nat Turner rebellion took place.

Another familiar name of the Powhatan Nation is the Native Aborigine by the name of Pocahontas, famously known for the Walt Disney manipulated interpretation of her characteristics and persona.

They finally caught up with Nat Turner after the slaughtering decimated, hiding inside of a cave like pit that was occupied by Indians at that time.

These people are called the Nottoway Indians that hid Nat Turner and his family from danger. This is part of history that was left out of most of the stories you hear about Nat Turner.

What is important to note, if Indians are what they show and tell us they are today of Western tribe decent with the straight like hair and the alkaline features, then how could Nat Turner and his family live and hide amongst them for so long if they didnt look like him?

Sources: United States Library of Congress – Dates 1712 – 1832, The Confession Of Nat Turner: An Authentic Account Of The Whole Insurrection by Thomas Grey – Jan. 2016, The Confessions Of Nat Turner: The Leader of the Late Insurrections in Southampton, VA by Nat Turner – Oct. 2013, Fort. Christanna Cemetery, Civil Rights and Education Heritage Trail in Southampton, VA

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“I heard a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first… And by signs in the heavens that it would make known to me when I should commence the great work, and until the first sign appeared I should conceal it from the knowledge of men and on the appearance of the sign… I should arise and prepare myself and slay my enemies with their own weapons.”

As a matter of fact, religious visions, particularly the Bible which Turner carried with him always, gave him and other enslaved black people the firm belief that they could rebel against slave owners.

“…the reason it [the Bible] was dog-eared and careworn, is that it provided him with inspiration, with the possibility of something else for himself and for those around him,” said museum curator Rex Ellis.

On August 13, 1831, Turner, who had then been given to another owner, used a weather event in the skies as the final signal that it was time to rebel.

On August 21, Turner and six others met to plan. In the wee hours of the morning, Turner and the others slew his new masters and their entire family. The group went from house to house, killing White families in their slumber. Eventually, Turner’s group grew to 40 slaves.

Later on August 22, the group marched toward the town of Jerusalem. The Whites by then were alerted of the slave rebellion and met them with weapons. Outgunned and out-manned, Turner’s group scattered and largely escaped. After hiding and clashing with the White militia throughout the day, Turner’s force killed at least 55 Whites.

Turner remained on the run until October 30 when a farmer by the name Benjamin Phipps found him hidden in a hole covered with fence rails – there with his Bible.

Turner was sentenced to death by hanging on November 5 by Virginia authorities, with his execution and subsequent skinning of his body taking place on November 11, alongside some 55 rebels.

After, his Bible remained in the Southampton County courthouse storage until 1912, when a courthouse gave it to a white family related to those killed in the rebellion. It was only recently that the historic relic was handed over to the museum of African American History in Washington, DC for safekeeping and preservation, becoming one of the museum’s prized possessions.

The Person family, which had kept the Bible, said “it sat in the back of a closet in the dark, wrapped in a cotton towel.” The artifact was first placed on the piano of the living room of Walter Person, who first inherited it after the revolt. Turner’s Bible was displayed there for 30 years until Walter died in 1945 and his son Maurice inherited it.

When Maurice decided to hand it over to the museum, he was told collectors would pay millions for the Bible but he was not willing to earn profit from it.

“It belongs to history. It belongs to the world,” Maurice told his stepdaughter Wendy Creekmore-Porter.

Recently, distinguished Professor of History Kenneth Greenberg spoke about the significance of Turner’s Bible: “The Bible stands as the embodiment of the religious vision that gave Nat Turner the courage and determination to sacrifice his life to fight slavery. At one moment, when Turner was in his jail cell, a white interrogator asked him whether he now believed himself mistaken.

“Without hesitation, Turner replied ‘Was not Christ crucified?’ Surrounded by enemies, days away from execution and dismemberment, it was the Bible and the religious ideas embedded in the Bible that inspired Turner and confirmed him in the belief that he had chosen a righteous road.”

Turner’s Capture

It is written that Turner was discovered hiding out on October 30 by farmer Benjamin Phipps. He surrendered to Phipps and was taken to be tried. On November 5, 1831, he was sentenced to death for "conspiring to rebel and make insurrection." On November 11 he was hanged.

Desperate to regain control in the wake of the rebellion, white militias unleashed a wave of violence and intimidation against both enslaved and free blacks throughout the region. Many innocent people who had nothing to do with the insurrection were killed as a result of this campaign. In one case a severed head was put on display at a Southampton County crossroad. To this day, the street located outside Courtland, Virginia, bears the name Blackhead Signpost Road. In Virginia, strict laws were passed to further limit the right of blacks to gather.

Stono Rebellion

The Stono Rebellion was the largest rebellion organized by enslaved African Americans in colonial America. Located near the Stono River in South Carolina, the actual details of the 1739 rebellion are murky because only one firsthand account was ever recorded. However, several secondhand reports were also recorded and it is important to note that white residents of the area wrote the records.

On September 9, 1739, a group of twenty enslaved African American people met near the Stono River. The rebellion had been planned for this day and the group stopped first at a firearms depot where they killed the owner and supplied themselves with guns.

Marching down St. Paul Parish with signs that read "Liberty," and with beating drums, the group was headed to Florida. It is unclear who led the group. By some accounts, it was a man named Cato, by others, Jemmy.

The group killed a series of enslavers and their families, burning homes as they traveled.

Within 10 miles, a white militia found the group. The enslaved men were decapitated, in front of other enslaved people. In the end, 21 white people and 44 Black people were killed.


Over the years, Turner has emerged as a hero, a religious fanatic and a villain. Turner became an important icon to the 1960s Black power movement as an example of an African American standing up against white oppression.

Others have objected to Turner&aposs indiscriminate slaughtering of men, women and children to try to achieve this end. As historian Scot French told The New York Times, "To accept Nat Turner and place him within the pantheon of American revolutionary heroes is to sanction violence as a means of social change. He has a kind of radical consciousness that to this day troubles advocates of a racially reconciled society. The story lives because it&aposs relevant today to questions of how to organize for change."

Watch the video: Nat Turner u0026 The Rebellion That Shook the South (May 2022).