A Rebellion to Remember: The Legacy of Nat Turner
Nat Turner is widely regarded as one of the most complex figures in American history and American literature. October marks the anniversary both of his birth and of his arrest as the leader of one of the United States' most famous slave rebellions.
Nat Turner was born October 2, 1800 on a plantation in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner was deeply committed to his Christian faith and believed he received messages from God through visions and signs in nature. When he was in his early 20s, these signs led him to return to his master after an escape attempt. Similarly, a solar eclipse and an unusual atmospheric event are believed to have inspired his insurrection, which began on August 21, 1831.
Nat Turner's rebellion was one of the bloodiest and most effective in American history. It ignited a culture of fear in Virginia that eventually spread to the rest of the South, and is said to have expedited the coming of the Civil War. In the immediate aftermath of the rebellion, however, many Southern states, including North Carolina, tightened restrictions on African Americans. Over the course of two days, dozens of whites were killed as Turner's band of insurrectionists, which eventually numbered over fifty, moved systematically from plantation to plantation in Southampton County. Most of the rebels were executed along with countless other African Americans who were suspected, often without cause, of participating in the conspiracy. Nat Turner, though, eluded capture for over two months. He hid in the Dismal Swamp area and was discovered accidentally by a hunter on October 30. He surrendered peacefully.
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