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The Story of Nat Turner and Slave Rebellion

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Abstract

On the date of August 21, 1831, a man by the name of Nat Turner lead of the most infamous slave revolts seen by any previous generation. This greatly known slave revolt took place in Southampton, Virginia and was orchestrated by Nat Turner himself. Nat Turner was born into slavery and was offered far more than most slaves will have ever received. He was able to read and write, and in doing so was known as a preacher by his slave owner and by fellow slaves. After going around and speaking to people of color stating there would be better days. Though in his travels did he see the irony in what exactly he was preaching to his fellow brothers and sisters and from this sighting, did he see there needed to time for a change. Through a message he had received from God himself from a dream, he saw what needed to happen. This being a slave revolt standing up to the white men themselves. Upon gathering his fellow slaves did they led an almost successful slave revolt until Nat Turner and his people were jumped at a checkpoint by a group of white folks. Nat Turner made it out alive and was on the run for 2 months after the event but was caught and hung on the date of November 11, 1831.

“Though it is a painful fact that most Negroes are hopelessly docile, many of them are filled with fury, and the unctuous coating of flattery which surrounds and encases that fury is but a form of self-preservation”. Nat Turner stood for a cause far greater by organizing and leading a rebellion that would cause mass panic amongst the common white folks, and also present ascendancy during the year of 1831. Through Nat Turner standing up for what he believed was God calling to him to take a stand, to Nat Turner’s execution in the rebellion, Nat Turner showed why his brothers and sisters of color should stand with him and evince not to give up hope he represented tragedy, triumph, and how he lead his rebellion had an impact on America.

Nat Turner was born into slavery on October 2, 1800. Nat’s father was believed to have run from the plantation when he was at a very young age while Nancy, his mother, was a household slave for their owners. The plantation in which Nat Turner was born onto was one owned by a man named Benjamin Turner in Southampton County, Virginia. Growing up, Nat Turner showed very uncommon caliber and was given the opportunity by his owner to learn how to read and write. In 1810, Benjamin Turner died, and Nat was passed down to his oldest son, this being Samuel Turner. Under given consent, Nat Turner used every opportunity he could grasp to expand his knowledge and, most importantly, his religion. He became very engrossed by religion so much to the point of him reading the Bible, and even studying the books pertaining to the Old Testament. This being said, lead to the point that he grew into manhood almost living by the words of the prophets. As he grew, he became more confused on why he was a slave, and not a freedman. He believed he held more knowledge than a vast majority of freed slave’s that he had witnessed. Though, no matter how true this was, he was still seen as a slave despite what he thought. Undeterred, Nat Turner continued expanding his strength and knowledge on his faith. Turner once said, “Having soon discovered to be great, I must appear so, and therefore studiously avoided mixing in society, and wrapped myself in mystery, devoting myself to fasting and prayer.” Nat Turner soon would become a preacher and would begin giving preaches to nearby slave owner’s slaves as seen in the movie “The Birth of a Nation” by Nate Parker. In this movie, Nat Turner was seen traveling with Samuel Turner, his owner, to preach and subdue those of slaves that were seen as unruly. Samuel’s main reasoning in doing is due to being financially strained and he saw how much he was to profit from Nat Turners preaching. When Nat traveled to preach to his fellow brothers and sisters, did he see how terribly they were being treated. Seeing countless atrocities against him and his fellow slaves made him want to do stand up for what he believed what was right. Though there is no evidence that in this movie this actually is a true event that happened, it still signified what Nat Turner believed was his mission and was his calling from God himself. Throughout Nat Turner preaching, did he feel as if God was trying to contact him through his dreams. Sometimes hearing things such as, “Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven,” the Spirit told him, “and all things shall he added unto you”. He began believing the things being told to him, trying to also understand exactly what each and every dream really meant. As Turner strengthen his preaching skill, did it give him a more recognizable character in his county and making it easier for him to know most of the Southampton County immediately. This being said, giving his more considerable freedom of movement.

Sometime around 1821, Nat Turner ended up running away from his plantation for about thirty days. This being because his master supposedly put him over an overseer who may have whipped Nat and punished him, making him desire for his freedom. Though he was able to successfully escape, did he return back. His fellow slaves were nonplussed with his voluntarily returning despite the consequences that may have followed. This being said, Nat did reply by saying “And the negroes found fault, and murmured against me,” Turner recounted later, “saying that if they had my sense they would not serve any master in the world.” This all being said, Nat Turner didn’t see himself working for a righteous or earthly master in his mind. No not at all, instead his saw himself working for the Jehovah, who was the angry and vengeful God of Israel. Later on, Nat Turner allegedly got married to a woman who name was Cherry. In the movie, Nat is seen trying to convince Samuel to buy her, stating that she would be a strong and very valuable women. She was first very against wanting to live on the plantation and wanting to run away but after meeting Nat, they fell in love and got married. Though, this was never seen as a legitimate marriage due to marriages between slaves were never accounted for, unlike those between freed men and whites. After getting married, Samuel Turner ended up dying in 1822, therefore, Nat Turner and Cherry being sold off to different plantations. Cherry ended up being sold off to a man named Giles Reese and Nat Turner was sold off to Thomas Moore. They were able to see each other from time to time, but it still caused both of them tremendous pain and signified the affliction that came along with living as a slave.

Nat Turner perennially saw how white people treated men and women of color. Slaves owners acting as with complete, and udder, benevolence. Breaking up families, selling off Negroes to whip-happy masters, and even denying education to men and women of color because they felt as if it wasn’t necessary for them to retain knowledge. He became more and more vexed by how him and his people were treated. This overall causing his imagination to fly towards incandescence perpetuate fasting and even Old Testament prayers. From this, Nat began to have apocalyptic and bloody visions in the woods Southwest of Jerusalem. “I saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle,” he declared later, “and the sun was darkened — the thunder rolled in the heavens, and blood flowed in streams — and I heard a voice saying, ‘Such is your luck, such you are called to see, and let it come rough or smooth, you must surely bare it.’” From all the visions and sightings that Nat Turner was receiving from white spirits caused him think that Judgment Day was coming near. This cause Nat to want to attain “True Holiness”. Nat Turner seeing how everything around him was being affected, started causing him to preach to his brothers and sisters that something major was about to take place for the betterment of them. To add on, Nat also told them about the strange occurrences that have been happening to him recently and how a white spirit had given him the power of the seasons. At a glance, many people nowadays may have not believed it, but at this period in time, slaves were looking for freedom and wanted to believe that freedom was right around the corner for them. Thus, causing them all to believe in what he was preaching to them. They even started believing that he could control the weather and heal diseases. Though from all these visions, he still didn’t know what his mission was.

On May 12, 1828, Nat remembered, “I 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.” From this did he finally understand for what he was meant for and what his mission was. “I should arise and prepare myself and slay my enemies with their own weapons.” This being said, until that day, he would keep his lips sealed and not speak or mention a word of it. Though, sometimes this would be very hard for him because he would simply write and speak about how he and the others ought to be free sometime. Sometimes causing him to get whipped and tormented. Since the sign that Jehovah gave, there were no more to follow, thus causing to return to everyday life. That next year, Joseph Travis, who at the time was a local wheelwright, married Moore’s widow causing them to move in with her house near Jerusalem. Now being switched under the authority of Travis, did Nat Turner see him as ‘a kind master’ and even placing ‘the greatest confidence’ in him.

On February of 1831, Nat Turner received a sign. This being an eclipse of the sun. He thought nothing other than it being the sign he’s had been waiting for. Seeing a black spot on the eclipse caused Nat to surmise that this was a message to God telling him to move. Not long, on August 13th, came another sign. This being a disturbance causing the sun to appear dimmer and being able to be looked at directly. Nat Turner then knew it was time for him and his people to now move towards freedom by any means necessary.

On August 21, 1831, Nat Turner and his fellow brother and sisters met up near the Travis house in the woods near a place referred to as “Cabin Pond” to feast. There Nat met two new recruits. These two men were referred to as Jack and Will. Jack was one of Hark’s Cronies, while Will was just simply a man that was willing to fight for freedom by any means necessary. Even if that meant dying while undertaking this task. For the rest of the night was planning for the mission that would take place very soon. Around two in the morning the next day, did they decide to leave. They ended passing by the place where Cherry was located. A place that belonged to her owner Giles Reese. Next, they would end up heading to the Travis house to commence their first target of the operation.

Entering the Travis household, did Nat Turner go in first by putting a ladder up to a window with Will following right after him. His other followers spread throughout the house without making a sound, looking for their next victims. Everyone wanted Nat to kill Travis because they saw him as a black messiah. When Nat took a swung at Travis head when his was asleep, he ended up missing, thus causing Travis to awake to find Nat with a hatchet and Will right behind him with an axe. He then started yelling getting out of bed yelling for his wife, that is, before Will’s killing instinct kicked in. Will approached Travis and hacked him to death with his axe. Shortly after came the slaughtering of the other four whites found in the house. These included, Mrs. Travis and even the young Putnam Moore, who was Nat’s legal owner at the time. In “The Birth of a Nation” movie, Nat is seen having a hard time a first hearing about the death of their younger son because he was at such a young age, but knew it was what had to be done in order for them to make it Jerusalem. Though it was hard for him to know a child died at the hands of his cause, he couldn’t help but finally have a sense of freedom. This being said, Nat was then referred to as “General Nat” from then on out.

Moving onto the next farm, Nat lead his men through his knowledge of how to proceed with these attacks. Though along the way to the next farm, someone had remembered the Travis baby was still there. This cause for Henry and Will to endeavor in going back and killing the baby in his cradle.

Taking farm after farm, did they use no firearms in the killing of people to not arouse suspicion in the area. Though, they did take advantage of taking horses and more weapons that they found along the way. Though coming so far in the night, Nat Turner had not killed one person. As they continued with their mission for freedom, Nat’s followers begin to increase steadily as well. Nat Turner ended up having about 75 followers. Within the 24 hours from the starting of the rebellion, 11 farms were attacked. With this in mind, 55 people were killed by the mob. As Nat and his people felt they were getting closer and closer to freedom, they continued on their killing spree and recruiting. With killings come, come reports, and those reports being to spread rapidly. Especially, when in the hands of a group of slaves under the command of an intelligent slave.

The Governor the assembled a militia to combat Nat Turners and stop him and his followers in their tracks, once and for all. In the militia, many white citizens began to volunteer to help stop Nat Turner because of the amount of trepidation going throughout the county on who might be attacked next. Moving forward, Nat began to move away from attacking rural plantations and instead decided to continue moving forward with simply just marching straights towards the town of Jerusalem. The reason for targeting this location was due to them wanting to burn it down and killing each and every single resident that lived there. Though, while on the way, Nat and his people were stopped by a road blockage by the heavily armed and massive militia organized by the Governor. At the sight of seeing their weapons, the slaves began to fluster and scattered. Most of the slaves apart of the rebellion were caught and killed. Even some innocent slaves that weren’t associated with the event at all were also slaughtered due to suspicion. Though many of the slaves being caught, Nat Turner actually ended up making it away from the militia and went into hiding for about two month in the woods before being caught on October 30th. The person who found him was a farmer by the name of Benjamin Phipps and he found Nat while he was hiding in a hole covered with fence rails.

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