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Nat Turner led an infamous slave rebellion in 1831 that ended with an estimated 60 dead slaveholders (this includes the family members, etc.) over the course of two days.

He was called "The Prophet" by his followers and was a deeply religious person who claimed he saw visions. The most persistent element in all of his visions was blood. Turner interpreted this as a signal from God that it was time for a bloody uprising. The sign that he thought was the final signal was a solar eclipse.

The revolt began with only seven disciples but grew to seventy in less than a day. The first to die were Nat Turner's owners. They wiped out the entire family including an infant. Turner's rule was that no one was spared because of age or sex. The idea was to go house to house killing every white person they found. Only one house was spared - a couple who was too poor to own slaves.

The rebellion ended with a series of standoffs with groups of white men. There were some large groups of soldiers detached from their units to help suppress the uprising and the disciples were disbursed after two days.

Nat Turner went into hiding and wasn't found for over a month. When discovered he was tried and hung the same day.

Now for the Sad Part

The reaction by whites to the rebellion was to mass murder slaves who were suspected of being rebellious in any way. The idea that slaves were somehow resigned to their lot in life was destroyed and the slaveholders were in a state of panic to frighten their slaves back into obedience. This also lead to a lot of anti-literacy laws being adopted (Nat Turner was actually very well read) and laws against more than X number of slaves congregating in one place without a white person overseeing.

Nat Turner was born a slave in October of 1800 in southeastern Virginia. When he was a child, his father escaped to freedom in the North, leaving him to be raised by his mother and grandmother. Nat Turner was born with unusual bumps and scars on his chest, and his mother said that, for this reason, he was to become a great leader. His first master, Master Benjamin, was not a harsh man, allowing him to study the bible and then to become a preacher to his slaves.

His life took a turn, however, when Master Benjamin died and Turner fell into the ownership of Master Samuel, who was a strict owner and ordered Turner to the fields. This is the point in Turner’s life where he began his intense hate for slavery - "It was then that the rage began, like a slow-burning fire in the pit of my stomach"(21). Turner felt betrayed, because he was told all his life that he wasn’t fit for slavery, and here he was, a slave. One day, his cruel overseer whipped him, and Turner ran away for thirty days.

His rage continued to grow throughout the years, and he felt that he had to do something. He felt that "the voice of the Spirit."(22) was calling to him, and that "God had ordained him for some great purpose"(22). Master Samuel died in 1822, and he was separated from his family, even his wife. This filled Turner with great sorrow and made him question why he, the "black" man, were to be enslaved. He wondered why it wasn’t the other way around. He knew there was nothing in the bible that justified this, and so it must be wrong. Seeking answers, he prayed and fasted, and was called upon again: "..and I heard a voice saying ‘Such is your luck, such you are called to see, and let it come through rough or smooth, you must surely bear it’"(23). In 1828, he had one more vision in which God told him that he needed to "slay his enemies with their own weapons"(23). He revealed his epiphany to a few other field hands, and he instigated a revolution. (see above).

sources: The Approaching Fury: Voices of the Storm (a pre-Civil War book), by Stephen B. Oates.

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