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Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion

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Since the Haitian Rebellion of 1791- 1804, Southern slave owners were in fear of a slave rebellion, especially in areas where slaves outnumbered non-slaves. Nat Turner, also known as “Prophet,” was one of the leaders who put this into action. He was an “upper class” (knew how to read and write) slave owned by Joseph Travis of Southampton, Virginia and was extremely religious. The unofficial religious leader of the slaves had seen a solar eclipse in February of 1831 and believed that God had chosen him to lead the revolt and “slay my enemies with their own weapons.” On August 21st, Nat Turner gathered seven slaves and killed his master, starting his slave rebellion.

Although only seventy-five others joined Turner, his revolt was one of the most extensive slave rebellions in the pre-Civil War United States. Turner and his men used non- firearm weaponry to kill white men, women, and children. In total, around fifty whites were killed by them. Their group got larger as the slave from homes they rampaged joined them. The government then sent in over three thousand members of the state militia to defeat them. Turner’s men were on there way to the armory in the county seat of Jerusalem, and, since they were disorganized and partially drunk, the revolt was defeated. Over a hundred innocent slaves were beaten, tortured, and murdered by the troops because of the rebellion. Nat Turner and a few followers eluded capture until October 30th (Coffey). Nat Turner, was tried, convicted, and then hung along with sixteen slaves on November 11th.

Although Nat Turner’s rebellion can be considered smaller than the Haitian Revolution, it had much more effect. This had caused a wave of fear in the South. Stricter laws prohibiting slaves from being educated and limiting the rights of all blacks were enacted by the southern government. Even the ones in the South who supported the anti-slavery movement had stopped because of the revolt. Many people of the time considered Nat Turner infamous, but now he is considered brave. Some even consider him heroic for all his efforts to stop slavery. His rebellion also inspired future campaigns against slavery, including John Brown’s. Nat Turner’s rebellion had “shattered the comforting white illusions of reciprocity, respect, and affection between slave and master”. Nat Turner’s rebellion was one of the most important strategies to overturn slavery during the pre- Civil War time.

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