Nathaniel Turner (1800-1831) was a black American who organized and led the most successful slave revolt in the United States.
Nat Turner was born a slave on Oct. 2, 1800, in Southampton County, Va. As a child, he exhibited notable leadership qualities and intelligence. His insight prompted friends to believe he was destined to be a prophet. Commenting on Nat's precociousness, they remarked that he "would never be of any service to anyone as a slave."
Turner had a restless, observant, inquisitive mind. He read the Bible and extracted from it useful ideas on liberty and freedom. He preached to other slaves, counseling them to seek self-respect, to fight for justice, and to resist and rebel against the institution of slavery if they were to be free men. He believed that he was chosen by God to deliver his people from bondage and "slay my enemies with their own weapons."
In February 1831 Turner received what he believed to be a sign from God (a solar eclipse) telling him that it was time for him and his companions to prepare for the revolt. On August 21 they began their attempt to overthrow the institution of slavery. In 48 hours they killed between 55 and 65 whites throughout Southampton County. A family of poor whites, who owned no slaves, was spared. On August 23 Turner's black liberation army was met and overpowered by a superior state and Federal military force. Over 100 blacks were slain in the encounter and dozens more immediately executed.
Turner, the "Black Spartacus, " escaped and was not caught until October 30. On November 5 he was tried and convicted. Although he admitted to leading the rebellion, when asked how he pleaded, he said "not guilty." Six days later he was executed for trying to free his people from slavery.
This slave rebellion catalyzed the beginning of the abolitionist movement in the United States. Because Turner's motive was a desire for liberty, some regard him as cast in the same mold as the American patriots who fought the Revolutionary War and as other freedom-loving men. No less than Patrick Henry, Turner too believed that "give me liberty or give me death" must be man's guiding philosophy of life.
An excellent work on Turner is Herbert Aptheker, Nat Turner's Slave Rebellion, Together with the Full Text of the So-called "Confessions" of Nat Turner Made in Prison in 1831 (1937; repr. 1966). Lerone Bennett, Jr., Pioneers in Protest (1968), contains interesting material on Turner. William Styron's novel Confessions of Nat Turner (1968) evoked considerable reaction from blacks, which is summarized in John Henrik Clarke, ed., William Styron's Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond (1968). Eric Foner, Nat Turner (1971), is a thorough, well-researched account of the rebellion and the reaction to it. Henry I. Tragle, The Southampton Slave Revolt (1971), provides perhaps the most important contemporary documents. □
"Nathaniel Turner." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/nathaniel-turner
"Nathaniel Turner." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved November 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/nathaniel-turner
Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).
Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.
Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:
Modern Language Association
The Chicago Manual of Style
American Psychological Association
- Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
- In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.