Nat Turner's Rebellion

Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader

The Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Nat Turner: A Brief Synopsis

Nat Turner was a slave preacher, famed for leading the largest successful slave revolt; a bloody rampage which carried on for 36 hours. Sixty white people were killed, young and old, and the violence only ended on Nat Turner's capture two months later.

The Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Nat Turner: Date of Birth and Parents

Nat Turner was described by Governor John Floyd to be five foot six or eight, of bright complexion, knock kneed with active hair on his head, a scar on his temple from being kicked by a mule, and a scar on the back of his neck from a bite. Nat Turner's father ran away to escape slavery when he was young; possibly contributing toward Nat Turner's realisation that he could seize his freedom. This, coupled with visions which Nat Turner interpreted as messages from God, was believed to have culminated in the massacre known as 'Nat Turner's Rebellion', or 'The Southampton Insurrection'.

The capture of escaped slave and slave rebellion leader, Nat Turner
Nat Turner, the famous slave and rebellion leader (public domain)

The Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Nat Turner: Planning The Southampton Insurrection and the Aftermath

Meeting with other slaves in secrecy at night and planning their uprising over many months, Nat Turner and his fellow slaves moved through Virginia, killing white slave holders - men, women and children alike - liberating their slaves until they were said to be over seventy free men and slaves in the throng. In order to avoid drawing the neighbourhood's attention to themselves, Nat Turner and his men avoided guns early in the rebellion, but knives, axes and other objects they obtained at their victims' houses.

Rumours of Nat Turner's rebellion spread like wildfire through Virginia and other states; the militia and mobs of white people retaliated by storming houses, stealing and killing approximately 100-200 slaves and free men, many of whom were innocent parties. Eventually 56 black people were arrested, but whilst Nat Turner was in hiding, the violence continued. As a result of the rebellion, further laws were in place to prevent the education of both slaves and free men, they were also no longer allowed the right to vote, or bear arms. The aftermath of the uprising and the havoc caused by the militia was noted by Harriet Jacobs after the birth of her son in 'Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl', and Henry 'Box' Brown in his memoirs. To this day, opinion remains divided as to whether Nat Turner was a terrorist or simply an enslaved man standing up for his rights as a human being.

The Famous Slave and Rebellion Leader Nat Turner: Victims of the Southampton Insurrection

According to 'The Confessions of Nat Turner' as written by his lawyer, Thomas Gray, Nat Turner survived his followers. At the time of the rebellion Nat Turner had been living with a kind master, Joseph Travers, but it was here that the killing spree started. The account given to Thomas Gray from Nat Turner explained the progression of the evening; Nat Turner had struck his master with a hatchet but the blow to the head had not killed him in the darkness. His master was instead killed by a fellow slave, and the family of five all met the same fate. The baby had initially been forgotten in the crib, but this was later addressed by two slaves party to the earlier murder of the rest of the family.


Name: Nat Turner
AKA: The Prophet
Born: 2 October 1800, Virginia
Captured: 30 October 1831
Death: 11 November 1831, Virginia
Cause: Hanging
Famed for: Leading a slave revolt in Virginia which killed 60 white people and resulted in the deaths of 100-200 slaves at the hands of the militia

The slaves involved in the rebellion knew their victims and had no regard for whether they were old, sleeping women or frightened children; they were all struck down with blows to the head, or as the night progressed, shot. Nat Turner claimed to have killed one person, a young woman named Margaret Whitehead who was repeatedly struck with a sword before being bludgeoned with a fence rail. As the slaves gained more momentum, word was beginning to spread of their deeds. Some families had already fled, leaving the slaves participating in the rebellion to destroy their property and steal any valuables. Any white people caught fleeing were chased down and killed. Nat Turner's men came across a school where children were playing in the yard, one girl hiding up a chimney as eleven playmates were killed outside. Of the white people that survived, some were helped by their slaves, some were hindered, and in one case, a woman escaped as her husband made a stand against Nat Turner's men to bide her some time.

The Rebellion Leader Nat Turner: Capture and Death

Nat Turner's men disbursed as Captain Alexander Peete approached with an armed squadroon; many of the slaves were caught or shot. Nat Turner however, escaped, hiding in a hole under a pile of fence rails in a field. He remained here for six weeks, only venturing out for water until stumbled across by a dog and two African Americans. Nat Turner fled and hid in another hole beneath a fallen tree for two weeks, but was subsequently discovered by Benjamin Phipps and taken prisoner on 30 October 1831. Believing the rebellion to be God's will, Nat Turner pleaded 'not guilty' but was convicted on 5 November 1831 and later hanged on 11 November 1831. In the minutes of the trial, Nat Turner's value was estimated to be worth $375, which the state later reimbursed his master. He was skinned, beheaded and quartered; whilst it is not known what happened to his body, in 2003 there was rumour that his skull was intending to be used in a National Civil Rights Hall of Fame in Indiana.


  1. Thomas Gray - The Confessions of Nat Turner

  2.  The Gutenberg Project

  3. The History Channel

  4. University of Groningen

  5. Encyclopaedia Britannica

  6. The Library of Virginia

The Biography of Famous Slave/ Abolitionist Nat Turner

  • The Biography of Nat Turner, for Education and Learning
  • Nat Turner's Efforts to End Slavery
  • Information About Nat Turner's Capture


  • Quick Facts About Rebellion Leader Nat Turner
  • Information About Nat Turner's Rebellion

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