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Nathaniel Turner

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Whitney
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« on: July 17, 2009, 01:43:59 am »

Turner was an enslaved American-born man who had lived his entire life in Southampton County, Virginia, an area with predominantly more blacks than whites.[1] After the rebellion, a reward notice described Turner as:

    5 feet 6 or 8 inches high, weighs between 150 and 160 pounds, rather bright 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.[2]

Turner was singularly 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.[3] He frequently received visions which he interpreted as messages from God. These visions greatly influenced his life; for instance, when Turner was 21 years old he ran away from his owner, Samuel Turner, but returned a month later after receiving a vision that told him to "return to the service of my earthly master."[4] In 1824, while working in the fields under his new owner, Thomas Moore, Turner had his second vision, in which "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."[5] Turner often conducted Baptist services, and preached the Bible to his fellow slaves, who dubbed him "The Prophet". Turner also had an influence over white people. In the case of Ethelred T. Brantley, Turner said that he was able to convince Brantley to "cease from his wickedness."[6] By the spring of 1828, Turner was convinced that he "was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty."[4] While working in his owner's fields on May 12, Turner "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."[7]

In 1830, Joseph Travis became Turner's master. Turner later recalled that Travis was "a kind master" who had "placed the greatest confidence in me."[7] Despite the decent treatment he received from Travis, Turner eagerly anticipated God's signal to start his task of "slay[ing] my enemies with their own weapons."[7] Turner witnessed a solar eclipse on February 12, 1831 and was convinced that this was the sign from God. He started preparations for a rebellion against the white slaveholders of Southampton County. Turner "communicated the great work laid out [for me] to do, to four in whom I had the greatest confidence" – his fellow slaves Henry, Hark, Nelson and Sam.[7]
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"Religion is What Keeps the Poor from Murdering the Rich" -- Napoleon Bonaparte


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