Nearly 188 years ago, the self-styled preacher Nat Turner led fellow slaves from farm to farm in Southampton County,US killing almost every white person they could find. Scores of blacks were murdered in reprisals throughout the South.
Around two in the morning on August 22, 1831, a group of seven slaves emerged from the woods in Southampton County, Virginia, armed with axes, hatchets, and knives.
They stopped at a farmhouse, hacked its four white occupants to death, took some firearms, and left—then remembered the family’s baby and returned to chop it to pieces as well.
The rebellion was put down within a few days, but Turner survived in hiding for more than two months afterwards. The rebellion was effectively suppressed at Belmont Plantation on the morning of August 23, 1831.
There was widespread fear in the aftermath, and militias organized in retaliation to the rebels. The state executed 56 enslaved people accused of being part of the rebellion, and many non-participant enslaved individuals were punished in the frenzy.
Approximately 120 enslaved people and free blacks were killed by militias and mobs in the area.There was widespread fear in the aftermath, and militias organized in retaliation to the rebels.
Turner learned how to read and write at a young age. He was identified as having “natural intelligence and quickness of apprehension, surpassed by few.” He grew up deeply religious and was often seen fasting, praying, or immersed in reading the stories of the Bible. He frequently had visions which he interpreted as messages from God, and these visions influenced his life.
Turner often conducted services, preaching the Bible to his fellow enslaved people, who dubbed him “The Prophet”. Turner garnered white followers such as Etheldred T. Brantley, whom Turner was credited with having convinced to “cease from his wickedness.
Beginning in February 1831, Turner claimed certain atmospheric conditions as a sign to begin preparations for a rebellion against enslavers. On February 12, 1831, an annular solar eclipse was visible in Virginia. He believed the eclipse to be a sign that it was time to revolt. Turner envisioned this as a black man’s hand reaching over the sun.