Nat Turner was one of America’s most divisive figures in the nineteenth century. This African American boy, born into slavery, organized the largest slave uprising in the early nineteenth century in the United States of America. Despite the fact that it did not succeed in emancipating the slaves, it disproved the illusion that they were satisfied with their lot and prepared the path for slavery’s abolition. Different people have different perspectives on him. His fellow slaves dubbed him a prophet, and he was revered as such. He became a symbol of the black power movement in the United States in 1960. Some scholars still regard him as a hero who fought for a worthy cause. Another faction deems him a murderer and a religious zealot, comparing him to modern-day terrorists. They claim that his method was evil and that it should not be defended at all costs. However, it is impossible to dispute that the insurrection he planned was not for his own advantage; he was attempting to free his fellow slaves who were treated inhumanely by their white masters and were severely punished for even the smallest error. Nat was no exception to this rule. A big knot of bones in his right wrist served as a reminder.
Childhood and Adolescence
On October 2, 1800, Nat Turner was born into slavery on a plantation owned by one Benjamin Turner in Southampton County, Virginia. His father’s identity is unknown. He is thought to have run away while Nat was a child.
Nancy, his mother, worked as a domestic slave for the Turner family. She is thought to have arrived in Norfolk in 1795 with her previous master, a Saint Domingue refugee, and was afterward sold to Benjamin Turner.
His owner Benjamin Turner recorded the boy as Nat after his birth, but he was also referred to as Nathaniel in several official documents. According to the slave-holding practices of the time, he was given the surname Turner.
Nat was close to his maternal grandmother Old Bridget, who was also a slave on the Turner farm when he was a child. She was originally from the Akan tribe, which lived in what is now Ghana. She was kidnapped at the age of 13 and sent to America as a slave. She was most likely the one who planted the seed of revolt in Nat.
Nat was an exceptionally bright child who learned to read at a young age. Benjamin Turner, his master, encouraged him to write and even gave him a Bible. It’s conceivable he also provided young Nat with other books because, according to Nat’s confession, he used to spend a lot of time reading books intended for white kids.
Nat was also a devout Christian who could be spotted praying and reading the Bible on a regular basis. He also fasted frequently. He loved to be alone and was rarely encountered in the company of other children.
Benjamin Turner passed away in the year 1810. Nat’s new owner was his brother Samuel. Samuel, on the other hand, was Benjamin’s oldest son, according to another narrative. He bought a new property with 360 acres of land about two miles distant from the first house.
Nat, his mother Nancy, and grandmother Old Bridget were lent to him for the purpose of starting a new plantation there. The arrangement became permanent after Benjamin died in 1810.
Later on in life
Samuel Turner’s son, Nat Turner, remained with him until his death in 1822. Although there is no proof, it is thought that he married a slave girl named Cherry around this time. Marriages between slaves, on the other hand, were not recognized by the law of the land, and hence had no legal or religious sanctity.
Soon after, he began to receive visions, which he mistook for divine messages. From this point forward, the idea that he had been selected by God began to take root in his thoughts. His fellow slaves started to believe it as well. However, it was unclear what God wanted him to accomplish at the time.
Nat Turner ran away when he was 22 years old but later returned to serve his old master on his own. There could have been additional attractions as well.
When Samuel died, his estate was liquidated, and Nat Turner was sold for $400 to Thomas Moore, while Cherry was sold to another plantation owner, Giles Reese. Nat became even more enraged as a result of his forced separation from his loved ones. He then turned to religion for comfort, increasing his time spent praying and fasting.
In 1825, Turner had his first significant vision. The vision convinced him that he was meant to make a difference. Soon after, he started holding religious services at Barnes’ Church near the North Carolina border.
Tuner’s next vision occurred on May 12, 1828. “I heard a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit instantaneously appeared to me,” he later explained. Turner was then told that “the moment was soon approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first,” and that he should take up Christ’s “yoke.”
He was also told not to act until he received another sign, and not to tell his family or friends anything; instead, he should carry on as usual.
His master, Thomas Moore, died only a few months after this incident. Despite the fact that his little son Putnam became Nat’s new owner, the slaves were quickly placed under the care of Joseph Travis, whom Mrs. Moore later married.
Nat Turner was persuaded that the time to act was approaching by the beginning of 1831, but he awaited a divine sign. He began to prepare, though, and confided in four close friends: Hark Travis, Henry Porter, Sam Francis, and Nelson Williams.
On February 11, 1931, Virginia saw a total solar eclipse, which Nat Turner interpreted as a portent to begin the uprising. They had planned to strike on July 4, but it had to be postponed due to Nat’s illness.
Another solar eclipse occurred in Virginia on August 13, 1931. The sun seemed bluish-green due to particular atmospheric conditions. Nat, on the other hand, saw it as a divine sign and felt it was time to strike.
The revolt began on August 21, 1831. According to some sources, the date is August 22. It was two o’clock in the evening. Around seventy black volunteers armed with hatchets, axes, and knives made up the gang. They didn’t have any firearms with them.
The rebels initially attacked the Travis family, killing all of them. They then proceeded on to other plantations, murdering the locals while freeing the slaves. Approximately 55 to 60 persons were killed in a single night.
When they got close to Jerusalem, Virginia, they were confronted with opposition from a gang of white militia. The rebels had the upper hand at first, but as three companies of artillery arrived on the scene, the insurgents were forced to disband and flee. Only twenty rebels remained at his location the next morning.
Nat Turner then attempted to recruit slaves from nearby plantations to join him, but they realized they would never succeed and sided with the masters. Nat’s army was quickly dispersed and defeated. Nat fled into hiding in the Dismal Swamp area, where he remained for a month before being spotted by a white hunter. Most of his buddies had been tracked down and killed by that point.
Around 200 black slaves were also killed by the white militia, many of whom had nothing to do with the uprising. Furthermore, restrictive legislation was enacted, further restricting black rights.
Detection and Execution
On October 30, 1831, farmer Benjamin Phipps unintentionally grabbed Nat Turner. He surrendered without a fight and was taken to the County Jail. Dr. Thomas R. Gray recorded his “Confession.” Although Gray claims it to be original, there are numerous inconsistencies in it, and it is possible that he adjusted it to fit the ‘white’ desire.
On November 5, 1831, Nat Turner was charged with “conspiring to rebel and making insurrection” before Southampton County Court. He was sentenced to death, as was expected.
On November 11, 1831, he was hung. He was not given a proper burial. Instead, his body was beheaded, quartered, and flayed, possibly to prevent him from experiencing an ‘afterlife.’ His skull was treasured as a prized possession. It later passed through a number of hands.
Nat Turner’s Legacy
The insurrection of Nat Turner made many people ponder, even if the result was not immediate. He influenced abolitionists such as Henry Highland Garnet and Thomas Wentworth Higginson.
Estimated Net worth
Nat is one of the wealthiest civil rights leaders and one of the most well-known. Nat Turner’s net worth is estimated to be around $2 billion.