|Nat Turner's Slave Rebellion|
|Part of the prelude to the American Civil War and North American slave revolts|
1831 woodcut illustrating various stages of the rebellion
|Rebel slaves||Local white militias|
|Commanders and leaders|
| Nat Turner ||Unknown, likely many|
|Casualties and losses|
|Approximately 96 killed or executed by militia and mobs||55–65 killed|
|North American slave revolts|
Nat Turner's Rebellion (also known as the Southampton Insurrection) was a slave rebellion that took place in Southampton County, Virginia, in August 1831,led by Nat Turner. Rebel slaves killed from 55 to 65 people, at least 51 being white. The rebellion was put down within a few days, but Turner survived in hiding for more than two months afterwards. The rebellion was effectively suppressed at Belmont Plantation on the morning of August 23, 1831.
There was widespread fear in the aftermath, and white militias organized in retaliation in opposition to the slaves. The state executed 56 slaves accused of being part of the rebellion, and many non-participant slaves were punished in the frenzy. Approximately 120 slaves and free blacks were murdered by militias and mobs in the area.State legislatures passed new laws prohibiting education of slaves and free black people, restricting rights of assembly and other civil liberties for free black people, and requiring white ministers to be present at all worship services.
Nat Turner was an American slave who had lived his entire life in Southampton County, Virginia, an area with more blacks than whites.After the rebellion, a reward notice described him as:
5 feet 6 or 8 inches [168–173 cm] high, weighs between 150 and 160 pounds [68–73 kg], rather "bright" [light-colored] complexion, but not a mulatto, broad shoulders, larger flat nose, large eyes, broad flat feet, rather knockneed, walks brisk and active, hair on the top of the head very thin, no beard, except on the upper lip and the top of the chin, a scar on one of his temples, also one on the back of his neck, a large knot on one of the bones of his right arm, near the wrist, produced by a blow.
Turner was intelligent and learned how to read and write at a young age. He grew up deeply religious and was often seen fasting, praying, or immersed in reading the stories of the Bible.He frequently had visions which he interpreted as messages from God, and these visions influenced his life. He ran away at age 21 from his owner Samuel Turner, but he returned a month later after becoming delirious from hunger and receiving a vision which told him to "return to the service of my earthly master". He had his second vision in 1824 while working in the fields under his new owner Thomas Moore. In it, "the Saviour was about to lay down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and the great day of judgment was at hand". Turner often conducted Baptist services and preached the Bible to his fellow slaves, who dubbed him "the Prophet".
By the spring of 1828, Turner was convinced that he "was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty".He "heard a loud noise in the heavens" while working in his owner's fields on May 12, "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".
In 1830, Joseph Travis purchased Turner, and Turner later recalled that he was "a kind master" who had "placed the greatest confidence in" him.Turner eagerly anticipated God's signal to "slay my enemies with their own weapons". He witnessed a solar eclipse on February 12, 1831 and was convinced that it was the sign for which he was waiting, so he started preparations for an uprising against the white slaveholders of Southampton County by purchasing muskets. He "communicated the great work laid out to do, to four in whom I had the greatest confidence", his fellow slaves Henry, Hark, Nelson, and Sam.
Turner originally planned to begin the rebellion on July 4, 1831, but he had fallen ill.An atmospheric disturbance on August 13 made the sun appear bluish-green; he took it as the final signal and began the rebellion a week later, on August 21. He started with several trusted fellow slaves, and ultimately gathered more than 70 enslaved and free blacks, some of whom were on horseback. The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing slaves and killing all the white people whom they encountered.
Muskets and firearms were too difficult to collect and would gather unwanted attention, so the rebels used knives, hatchets, axes, and blunt instruments. Historian Stephen B. Oates states that Turner called on his group to "kill all the white people".A newspaper noted, "Turner declared that 'indiscriminate slaughter was not their intention after they attained a foothold, and was resorted to in the first instance to strike terror and alarm.'" The group spared a few homes "because Turner believed the poor white inhabitants 'thought no better of themselves than they did of negroes.'" The rebels killed approximately 60 white people before they were defeated. Eventually, the state militia infantry were able to defeat the insurrection with twice the manpower of the rebels, reinforced by three companies of artillery.
Within a day of the suppression of the rebellion, the local militia and three companies of artillery were joined by detachments of men from the USS Natchez and USS Warren, which were anchored in Norfolk, and militias from counties in Virginia and North Carolina surrounding Southampton. The state executed 56 black people, and militias killed at least 100 more. An estimated 120 black people were killed, most of whom were not involved with the rebellion.
Rumors quickly spread among whites that the slave revolt was not limited to Southampton and that it had spread as far south as Alabama. Fears led to reports in North Carolina that "armies" of slaves were seen on highways, and that they had burned and massacred the white inhabitants of Wilmington, North Carolina, and were marching on the state capital.Such fear and alarm led to whites' attacking blacks throughout the South with flimsy cause; the editor of the Richmond Whig described the scene as "the slaughter of many blacks without trial and under circumstances of great barbarity". The white violence against the black people continued two weeks after the rebellion had been suppressed. General Eppes ordered troops and white citizens to stop the killing:
He will not specify all the instances that he is bound to believe have occurred, but pass in silence what has happened, with the expression of his deepest sorrow, that any necessity should be supposed to have existed, to justify a single act of atrocity. But he feels himself bound to declare, and hereby announces to the troops and citizens, that no excuse will be allowed for any similar acts of violence, after the promulgation of this order.
Reverend G. W. Powell wrote a letter to the New York Evening Post stating that "many negroes are killed every day. The exact number will never be known." [ full citation needed ]A company of militia from Hertford County, North Carolina, reportedly killed 40 blacks in one day and took $23 and a gold watch from the dead. Captain Solon Borland led a contingent from Murfreesboro, North Carolina, and he condemned the acts "because it was tantamount to theft from the white owners of the slaves". Blacks suspected of participating in the rebellion were beheaded by the militia, and "their severed heads were mounted on poles at crossroads as a grisly form of intimidation". A section of Virginia State Route 658 remains labeled as "Blackhead Signpost Road" in reference to these events.
Turner eluded capture for six weeks but remained in Southampton County. On October 30, a white farmer named Benjamin Phipps discovered him hidden among the local Nottoway people, in a depression in the earth, created by a large, fallen tree that was covered with fence rails. He was tried on November 5, 1831 for "conspiring to rebel and making insurrection"; he was convicted and sentenced to death.He was asked if he regretted what he had done, and he responded, "Was Christ not crucified?" He was hanged on November 11 in Jerusalem, Virginia, and his corpse was drawn and quartered.
After Turner's capture, lawyer Thomas Ruffin Gray published The Confessions of Nat Turner: The Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Virginia. The book was the result of Gray's research while Turner was in hiding and his conversations with Turner before the trial, and it is the primary window into Turner's mind. Gray had a conflict of interest because he was the defense attorney for other accused participants, so historians disagree on how to assess it as insight into Turner.
In the aftermath of the rebellion, dozens of suspected rebels were tried in courts called specifically for the purpose of hearing the cases against the slaves. Most of the trials took place in Southampton, but some were held in neighboring Sussex County plus a few in other counties. Most slaves were found guilty and many were then executed, while others were transported outside the state but not executed; 15 of the slaves tried in Southampton were acquitted.Moreover, some slave owners sought compensation from the legislature for slaves who were killed without trial during the rebellion or its immediate aftermath; all their petitions were rejected.
The Virginia General Assembly debated the future of slavery the following spring; some urged gradual emancipation, but the pro-slavery side prevailed. The General Assembly passed legislation making it unlawful to teach reading and writing to slaves, free blacks, or mulattoes, and restricting all blacks from holding religious meetings without the presence of a licensed white minister.Other slave-holding states in the South enacted similar laws restricting activities of slaves and free blacks.
Some free blacks chose to move their families north to obtain educations for their children. Some white people, such as teachers Thomas J. Jackson (later to be famous in the American Civil War as Gen. "Stonewall" Jackson) and Mary Smith Peake, violated the laws and taught slaves to read. Overall, the laws enacted in the aftermath of the Turner Rebellion enforced widespread illiteracy among slaves. As a result, most newly freed slaves and many free blacks in the South were illiterate at the end of the American Civil War.[ citation needed ]
Freedmen and Northerners considered the issue of education and helping former slaves gain literacy as one of the most critical in the postwar South. Consequently, many Northern religious organizations, former Union Army officers and soldiers, and wealthy philanthropists were inspired to create and fund schools for the betterment of African Americans in the South. Although Reconstruction legislatures passed authorization to establish public education for the first time in the South, a system of legal racial segregation was later imposed under Jim Crow laws, and black schools were systematically underfunded by Southern states.[ citation needed ]
A slave rebellion is an armed uprising by slaves. Slave rebellions have occurred in nearly all societies that practice slavery or have practiced slavery in the past. A desire for freedom and the dream of successful rebellion are often the greatest objects of song, art, and culture amongst the enslaved population. Many of the events, however, are often violently opposed and suppressed by slaveholders.
Nat Turner was an enslaved African-American preacher who led a four-day rebellion of both enslaved and free black people in Southampton County, Virginia, beginning August 21, 1831. The rebellion caused the death of approximately 60 white men, women, and children. Whites organized militias and called out regular troops to suppress the uprising. In addition, white militias and mobs attacked blacks in the area, killing an estimated 120 men, women, and children, many of whom were not involved in the revolt.
Southampton County is a county located on the southern border of the Commonwealth of Virginia. North Carolina is to the south. As of the 2010 census, the population was 18,570. Its county seat is Courtland.
David Walker was an American abolitionist, writer, and anti-slavery activist. Though his father was enslaved, his mother was free; therefore, he was free as well. In 1829, while living in Boston, Massachusetts, with the assistance of the African Grand Lodge, he published An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, a call for black unity and self-help in the fight against the oppressive and unjust slavery.
Gabriel, today commonly—if incorrectly—known as Gabriel Prosser, was a literate enslaved blacksmith who planned a large slave rebellion in the Richmond area in the summer of 1800. Information regarding the revolt was leaked prior to its execution, and he and twenty-five followers were taken captive and hanged in punishment. In reaction, Virginia and other state legislatures passed restrictions on free blacks, as well as prohibiting the education, assembly, and hiring out of slaves, to restrict their chances to learn and to plan similar rebellions.
Charles Deslondes was one of the slave leaders of the 1811 German Coast Uprising, a slave revolt that began on January 8, 1811, in the Territory of Orleans. He led more than 200 rebels against the plantations along the Mississippi River toward New Orleans. White planters formed militias and ended up hunting down the rebels. The slave insurgents killed one Free Man of Color, the "comandant" "overseer" or "slave driver" on the Andre plantation which started the revolt and one white man during their retreat from the out skirts of New Orleans. The militia and the Army killed 95 slaves which included the battle, which took place on Bernard Bernoudy's plantation, some gratuitous "accidental" killings of innocent slaves by the Army on its march from New Orleans and the executions which followed the Tribunals after the revolt was put down.
The Stono Rebellion was a slave rebellion that began on 9 September 1739, in the colony of South Carolina. It was the largest slave uprising in the British mainland colonies, with 25 colonists and 35 to 50 Africans killed. The uprising was led by native Africans who were likely from the Central African Kingdom of Kongo, as some of the rebels spoke Portuguese.
Herbert Aptheker was an American Marxist historian and political activist. He wrote more than 50 books, mostly in the fields of African-American history and general U.S. history, most notably, American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), a classic in the field. He also compiled the 7-volume Documentary History of the Negro People (1951–1994). In addition, he compiled a wide variety of primary documents supporting study of African-American history. He was the literary executor for W. E. B. Du Bois.
Denmark Vesey was a literate, skilled carpenter and leader among African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina. He was accused and convicted of being the leader of "the rising," a major potential slave revolt planned for the city in June 1822. He was executed shortly thereafter.
The Baptist War, also known as the Christmas Rebellion, the Christmas Uprising and the Great Jamaican Slave Revolt of 1831–32, was an eleven-day rebellion that started on 25 December 1831 and involved up to 60,000 of the 300,000 slaves in Jamaica. The uprising was led by a black Baptist preacher, Samuel Sharpe and waged largely by his followers.
The Confessions of Nat Turner is a 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by U.S. writer William Styron. Presented as a first-person narrative by historical figure Nat Turner, the novel concerns the slave revolt in Virginia in 1831. It is based on The Confessions of Nat Turner: The Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Virginia, a first-hand account of Turner's confessions published by a local lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray, in 1831.
Events from the year 1831 in the United States.
Tacky's War, or Tacky's Rebellion, was an uprising of Akan slaves that occurred in Jamaica from May to July 1760. It was the most significant slave rebellion in the Caribbean between the 1733 slave insurrection on St. John and the 1791 Haitian Revolution. According to Professor Trevor Burnard: "In terms of its shock to the imperial system, only the American Revolution surpassed Tacky's War in the eighteenth century."
A large contingent of African Americans served in the American Civil War. 186,097 black men joined the Union Army: 7,122 officers, and 178,975 enlisted soldiers. Approximately 20,000 black sailors served in the Union Navy and formed a large percentage of many ships' crews. Later in the War, many regiments were recruited and organized as the United States Colored Troops, which reinforced the Northern side substantially in the last two years. Both Northern free blacks and Southern runaway slaves joined the fight. Throughout the course of the war, black soldiers served in forty major battles and hundreds of more minor skirmishes; sixteen African Americans received the Medal of Honor.
The 1811 German Coast uprising was a revolt of black slaves in parts of the Territory of Orleans on January 8–10, 1811. The uprising occurred on the east bank of the Mississippi River in what is now St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and Jefferson Parishes, Louisiana. While the slave insurgency was the largest in US history, the rebels killed only two white men. Confrontations with militia and executions after trial killed 95 black people.
Thomas Ruffin Gray was an attorney who represented several enslaved people during the trials in the wake of Nat Turner's slave rebellion.
William H. Brodnax, was a nineteenth-century American militia Brigadier General and American politician from Virginia.
James Strange French (1807-1886) was a lawyer, novelist, and later hotel keeper.
Cherry Turner was an enslaved American Indian in Southampton, Virginia in the early 1800s. She was the wife of slave rebel, Nat Turner.
NegroHead Road is a place outside Wilmington, North Carolina with similar displays in other Southern towns, where body parts of slaves or blacks were displayed in consequence of a purported crime. It is modeled after displays like Blackhead Signpost Road in Southampton County, Virginia. It was here, in 1831, where the head of a slave, Alfred, was displayed on a stake for being part of Nat Turner's slave rebellion, as a warning for any future rebels.
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Nat Turner's slave rebellion
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