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).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Social Reformers