Turner, Nat

Turner, Nat, 1800–1831, American slave, leader of the Southampton Insurrection (1831), b. Southampton co., Va. Deeply religious from childhood, Turner was a natural preacher and possessed some influence among local slaves. Apparently believing himself divinely appointed to lead fellow slaves to freedom, he plotted a revolt with a band of approximately 60 followers. After killing the family of Turner's owner, the band ravaged the neighborhood, in two days killing a total of 55 white people, mostly women and children. The revolt was soon crushed, however, and 13 slaves and three free blacks were hanged immediately. Turner himself escaped to the woods, but was captured six weeks later and hanged. Dozens more blacks were also killed in retaliation. The abortive uprising, by far the bloodiest and most serious in the history of slavery in the United States, led to more stringent slave laws in the South. Over the years, Turner became a figure of controversy, seen by some as a vicious fanatic and by others as a hero of black resistence.

See K. S. Greenberg, ed. (2003); S. French (2004); C. Burnett, dir., Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (documentary film, 2004); D. F. Allmendinger Jr., Nat Turner and the Rising in Southampton County (2017); K. C. Jackson; Force and Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence (2019); C. Tomlins, In the Matter of Nat Turner: A Speculative History (2020); V. M. Holden, Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner's Community (2021).

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