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Nathaniel Turner

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Whitney
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« on: July 17, 2009, 01:40:03 am »

Nat Turner (Nathaniel Turner, October 2, 1800 November 11, 1831) was an American slave who led a slave rebellion that resulted in 55 deaths, the largest number of fatalities to occur in one uprising in the antebellum southern United States. He gathered supporters in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner's methodical slaughter of white civilians during the uprising makes his legacy controversial.

At birth, Turner's white master recorded only his given name, Nat, although he may have had a last name within the enslaved community. In accordance with common practice, the white community referred to him by the last name of his owner, Samuel Turner. This practice was used by later historians as well.

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Nat Turner as one of the 100 Greatest African Americans.
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« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2009, 01:41:18 am »

Nat spent his entire life in Southampton County, Virginia, an area with predominantly more blacks than whites.[2] After the rebellion, a reward notice described Nat 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.[3]

Nat 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.[4] He frequently received visions which he interpreted as messages from God. These visions greatly influenced his life; for instance, when Nat was 23 years old, he ran away from his owner, but returned a month later after receiving such a vision. Turner often conducted Baptist services, and preached the Bible to his fellow slaves, who dubbed him as "The Prophet". Turner also had an influence over white people, and in the case of Ethelred T. Brantley, Nat said that he was able to convince Brantley to "cease from his wickedness".[5] By early 1828, Nat was convinced that he "was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty."[6] 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] Nat was convinced that God had given him the task of "slay[ing] my enemies with their own weapons."[7] Nat "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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« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2009, 01:41:37 am »

Beginning in February 1831, Turner came to believe that certain atmospheric conditions were to be interpreted as a sign that he should begin preparing for a rebellion against the slave owners.

On February 12, 1831, an annular solar eclipse was seen in Virginia. Nat saw this as a Black man's hand reaching over the sun and he took this as his sign. The rebellion was initially planned for July 4, Independence Day, but was postponed due to deliberation between him and his followers, and illness. On August 13, there was an atmospheric disturbance, another solar eclipse, in which the sun appeared bluish-green (possibly from debris deposited in the atmosphere by an eruption of Mount Saint Helens). Nat took this as the final signal, and a week later, on August 21, he began the rebellion.
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« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2009, 01:42:23 am »

Nat Turner's slave rebellion

Nat Turner's Rebellion (also known as the Southampton Insurrection) was a slave rebellion that took place in Southampton County, Virginia during August 1831. Slaves in the rebellion killed approximately 60 white people, the highest number of fatalities caused by slave uprisings in the South. The rebellion was put down a few days later, but leader Nat Turner remained in hiding for several months afterward.

In the aftermath, there was widespread fear and retaliation against slaves. Many innocent enslaved people were punished. At least 100 blacks, and probably many more, were killed. New laws were passed across the South prohibiting education of slaves and free blacks, restricting rights of assembly and others for free blacks, and requiring white ministers to be present at black worship services.
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« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2009, 01:43:00 am »

Nat Turner's Slave Rebellion
Also known as    Southampton Insurrection
Participants    Over 70 enslaved and free blacks
Location    Southampton County, Virginia
Date    August 21, 1831 - August 22, 1831
Result    Nat Turner was tried, convicted, and hanged; ~60 whites killed in rebellion, >100 blacks killed in aftermath
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« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2009, 01:43:44 am »



1712 New York Slave Revolt (Suppressed)
1733 St. John Slave Revolt
1739 Stono Rebellion (Suppressed)
1741 New York Conspiracy (Suppressed)
1791–1804 Haitian Revolution (Victorious)
1800 Gabriel Prosser (Suppressed)
1805 Chatham Manor (Suppressed)
1811 German Coast Uprising (Suppressed)
1815 George Boxley (Suppressed)
1822 Denmark Vesey (Suppressed)
1831 Nat Turner's rebellion (Suppressed)
1839 Amistad, ship rebellion (Victorious)
1841 Creole, ship rebellion (Victorious)
1859 John Brown's Raid (Crushed)
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« Reply #6 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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« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2009, 01:44:28 am »



1831 woodcut purporting to illustrate various stages of the rebellion
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« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2009, 01:44:43 am »

Turner started with a few trusted fellow slaves, but the insurgency ultimately numbered more than 70 enslaved and free blacks, some of whom were on horseback.[8] On August 13, 1831, there was an atmospheric disturbance which made the sun appear bluish-green. Turner took this as the final signal. He began the rebellion a week later on August 21. The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing slaves and killing all the white people they encountered.

Because the rebels did not want to alert anyone, they used knives, hatchets, axes, and blunt instruments instead of firearms. (The latter would have been more difficult for them to collect.) Historian Stephen B. Oates states that Turner called on his group to "kill all the white people."[9] A contemporary 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.'"[10] The group spared a few homes "because Turner believed the poor white inhabitants 'thought no better of themselves than they did of negroes.'"[9]

The rebels spared almost no one whom they encountered. A small child who hid in a fireplace was among the few survivors. Approximately sixty white men, women and children were killed[9] before Turner and his brigade of insurgents were defeated. A white militia twice the size of the rebels was reinforced by three companies of artillery.[11]
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« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2009, 01:45:02 am »

Retaliation

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.[11] They killed at least 100 blacks, and probably many more. [12] The number of black victims exceeded the number of rebels.[13]

Rumors quickly spread that the slave revolt was not limited to Southhampton, and that it had expanded as far south as Alabama. Fears led to reports in North Carolina that "armies" of slaves were seen on highways, had burned and massacred the inhabitants of Wilmington, and were marching on the state capital.[9] This hysteria led to whites attacking blacks across the South with flimsy cause–the editor of the Richmond Whig, writing "with pain," described the scene as "the slaughter of many blacks without trial and under circumstances of great barbarity."[14] Two weeks after the rebellion had been suppressed, the violence against the blacks continued. General Eppes ordered troops and white citizens to stop the killing:

    He [the General] 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.[15]
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« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2009, 01:45:17 am »

In a letter to the New York Evening Post, Reverend G. W. Powell wrote that "many negroes are killed every day. The exact number will never be known."[16]

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.[17] Captain Solon Borland, who led a contingent from Murfreesboro, North Carolina, condemned the acts "because it was tantamount to theft from the white owners of the slaves."[17] Blacks suspected of participating in the rebellion were beheaded by the militia. "Their severed heads were mounted on poles at crossroads as a grisly form of intimidation."[17]
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« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2009, 01:45:38 am »

Aftermath

The rebellion was suppressed within 48 hours. In the aftermath of the revolt, 48 black men and women were tried on charges of conspiracy, insurrection, and treason. "In total, the state executed 55 people, banished many more, and acquitted a few. The state reimbursed the slaveholders for their slaves. But in the hysterical climate that followed the rebellion, close to 200 black people were killed" by white militias and mobs.[18]

Turner eluded capture for months. On October 30, he was discovered in a cave by a white farmer and then arrested. A trial was quickly arranged. On November 5, 1831, Nat Turner was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. He was hanged on November 11 in Jerusalem, Virginia.

After Turner's capture, his court-appointed trial lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray, wrote and published The Confessions of Nat Turner. The book was the result both of Gray's research while Turner was in hiding and of his conversations with Turner before the trial. This document remains the primary window into Turner's mind. Because of the author's obvious conflict of interest, historians disagree on how to assess it as insight to Turner rather than Gray.
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« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2009, 01:45:56 am »

Legal Response

In the aftermath of the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion, the Virginia General Assembly passed new legislation making it unlawful to teach slaves, free blacks, or mulattoes to read or write. The General Assembly also passed a law restricting all blacks from holding religious meetings without the presence of a licensed white minister.[19] Similar laws were enacted in other slave-holding states across the South.[20]

Some free blacks chose to move their families north to obtain educations for their children. Some individuals, such as a young teacher named Thomas J. Jackson (better known to history as "Stonewall Jackson") and another named Mary Smith Peake, chose to violate the laws and teach slaves to read. Overall, the laws enacted in the aftermath of the Turner Rebellion resulted in the widespread illiteracy 35 years later of newly freed slaves and many other free blacks in the South at the end of the American Civil War.

The issue of education and helping freedmen gain literacy was seen 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 educational efforts specifically for the betterment of African Americans in the South. With the Freedmen's Bureau, the American Missionary Association (AMA) led the effort to establish basic schools for elementary learning, and created normal schools to generate teachers, such as those that grew to become Hampton University and Tuskegee University. The AMA founded eleven colleges in Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and Mississippi.
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« Reply #13 on: July 17, 2009, 01:46:19 am »

There were great gains in education, with the majority of southern blacks achieving literacy by 1900, and 30,000 teachers having been put to work in the South.[21] The needs continued to be great, and the black community continued to reach for education after the turn of the 20th century. Agricultural depression, crop failures and segregation meant there was little money for states to spend, and they consistently underfunded black education and services. Concerned about consistent underfunding of rural black schools in the South, Julius Rosenwald partnered with Dr. Booker T. Washington of Tuskegee University to develop a program of matching funds to stimulate community cooperation in building and maintaining new schools. In the 1920s and 1930s, more than 5,000 schools were built with assistance from the Rosenwald Fund. Other wealthy philanthropists such as Henry H. Rogers, Andrew Carnegie, and George Eastman also contributed to historically black colleges and other education initiatives in these early decades. Each of the men had risen from modest roots to become wealthy.
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« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2009, 01:46:36 am »

Casualties

Historian Stephen B. Oates notes that Nat Turner had ordered his followers to "kill all the white people", including women and children. The rebels killed approximately 60 white men, women and children; most were hacked to death with axes, stabbed, or bludgeoned. The largest number of casualties were children. In one instance, Turner and his insurgents stopped at the house of Levi Waller where they killed him, his wife, and children. Ten of the children were decapitated and their headless bodies piled in the front yard.[9]

Nat Turner's Rebellion resulted in a fierce white response motivated by fear and revenge. Eager to show that actions such as Turner's would not be tolerated, planters and white militias throughout the South executed vigilante justice, killing slaves and other persons of African descent, many of whom had no connection with the rebellion.[13]
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