Friday, November 4, 2011

This Day in History November 5, 1831

Ever heard of Nat Turner and his infamous slave rebellion?  This day in history was significant in his life.  Read on about this courageous African American.

Nathaniel "Nat" Turner was born October 2, 1800 in Southampton County, Virginia.  Benjamin Turner, his owner, was kind enough to teach him to read.  Through reading the Bible, Nat Turner studied Christianity in depth and came to believe that it was wrong.  His people tended to see him as a prophet, and he basically kept to himself while devoting his time to prayer, fasting, and study.  He was also known for seeing visions from God that told him what to do and how to do it.

When he was 21, he ran away from his owner, but he returned a month later due to one of these visions from God.  He continued to preach to his people and even to white people about repenting and turning to God.  I could spend a long time going over his visions and many things that happened to him before the rebellion, but you can do that by checking out the links below.

In 1830, he was sold to Joseph Travis.  Even though his owner was nice to him, Turner was awaiting the go ahead from God to slay those who had enslaved him.  It was an eclipse of the sun in February 1831, that confirmed to him what God intended for him to do.  The rebellion began on August 21 of that year.  He and his men went from house to house murdering entire slave-owning families while they slept and any other white men they found on their way. (That is absolutely horrible!!)  They freed slaves as the slave owners were killed.  About 40 slaves ultimately joined with Turner. 

Within 48 hours, the rebellion was squelched, but Turner was not captured for months.  He and his fellow slaves killed about 55 white people.  He was finally discovered on October 30, and he was turned over to the authorities.  His court-appointed lawyer published The Confessions of Nat Turner as a way of explaining Turner's way of thinking.

It was on this day in 1831 that Nat Turner was tried and convicted for the slave rebellion.  It was but a week later that he was hanged.  They skinned his body and gave it out to the white people at the hanging as souvenirs (that is horrible too!). There were several accounts as to how many blacks were hanged as a result of the rebellion. At least 18, but one site says 55.  It was estimated that about 75 slaves participated in this rebellion.  The really sad thing is that over 200 slaves who were innocent and did not even live in Virginia were murdered by white mobs because it was claimed that these slaves had a connection to Turner.  Of course, it was just an excuse--it was really retaliation.

While I believe with all my heart that slavery is wrong, what Nat Turner did was wrong, too.  I am reminded of Martin Luther King, Jr.  No matter what you may think of him, you cannot deny the fact that he advocated peace.  He would never have condoned what Turner did.  Yes, both men essentially paid the same price for their actions, but who is remembered in a positive light?  King, not Turner. 

For more information, check out these informative sites:


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