Nat Turner

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Nathaniel "Nat" Turner (October 2, 1800 – November 11, 1831) was an American slave who led a slave rebellion in Virginia on August 21, 1831 that resulted in 56[2] deaths among their victims, the largest number of white fatalities to occur in one uprising prior to the American Civil War in the southern United States. He gathered supporters in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner's killing of whites during the uprising makes his legacy controversial. For his actions, Turner was convicted, sentenced to death, and executed. In the aftermath, the state executed 56 blacks accused of being part of Turner's slave rebellion. Two hundred blacks were also beaten and killed by white militias and mobs reacting with violence. Across Virginia and other southern states, state legislators passed new laws prohibiting education of slaves and free blacks, restricting rights of assembly and other civil rights for free blacks, and requiring white ministers to be present at black worship services.


Early life

At birth, Turner's master recorded only his given name, Nat, although he may have had a last name within the slave community. In accordance with common practice, the whites referred to him by the last name of his owner, Samuel Turner. This practice was continued by historians. Turner knew little about his father's background, who was believed to have escaped from slavery when Turner was a young boy. Turner remained close to his paternal grandmother, Old Bridget, who was also a slave owned by Samuel Turner. Turner's maternal grandmother was a member of the Coromantee (an Akan-speaking) tribe, who was captured in Africa at thirteen years of age and shipped to America.[3]

Turner spent his life in Southampton County, Virginia, a predominantly black area.[4] 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.[5]

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