Nat Turner
black slave and preacher led slave revolt

1800 - 1831

Nat Turner, a black slave and preacher, led the most famous slave revolt in United States history. In 1831, Turner and from 60 to 70 other slaves killed about 60 whites in Virginia. The victims included the family of Joseph Travis, Turner's owner.

More whites died during the rebellion led by Turner than in any other in the nation's history. The Virginia militia captured and hanged about 20 of the slaves, including Turner. In addition, angry whites killed about 100 innocent slaves. The rebellion caused the Southern States to pass strict laws for the control of slaves, especially those who were preachers.

Turner was born on a plantation in Southampton County, Virginia. His parents and grandmother encouraged him to become educated and to fight slavery. Through the years, Turner became the property of several other slaveowners. The son of one of his masters taught him to read and write. Turner became known as a forceful preacher who believed that God wanted him to free the slaves. This conviction led to his planning the rebellion.

Contributor: Frank Otto Gatell, Ph.D., Prof. of History, Univ. of California, Los Angeles.

Additional resources

Goldman, Martin S. Nat Turner and the Southhampton Revolt of 1831. Watts, 1992.

Oates, Stephen B. The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner's Fierce Rebellion. 1975. Reprint. Harper, 1990.


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