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Nat Turner was an enslaved African American preacher who famously led a four-day-long rebellion against white slave-holders, known as Nat Turner’s Rebellion, or the Southampton Insurrection in August 1831.
- Born in the country of Southampton, Virginia in October 1800, Nathaniel Turner was born into slavery.
- In these times, slaves had no rights and were considered the property of their owners.
- The plantation that Nat was born on belonged to Benjamin Turner. When Benjamin died in 1810, Nat was inherited as property by Benjamin’s son, Samuel.
- Under the ownership of Samuel, Nat Turner was taught how to read and write at a young age. This was highly unusual for the time, as slaves were generally not educated at all.
- Turner showed natural intelligence and eagerness to learn.
- He was also very religious – he could often be seen reading the Bible, fasting, praying, and preaching to fellow slaves.
- Turner often had visions, which he believed to be messages from God. These visions would also influence his life.
- At the age of 21, Turner ran away from his owner Samuel. After one month he returned. This was because he became delirious from hunger and dehydration and received a vision from God telling him to return to his master.
- Nat Turner then became the property of a new slave owner, Thomas Moore.
- In 1824, at the age of 24, while working in Moore’s fields, Turner had yet another vision. In the vision, he believed God was telling him that the burden of slavery was going to end and judgement was at hand.
- Over the next four years, Turner continued to preach to his fellow slaves. He and his followers began to believe that he was a prophet.
- During this time, Virginia was a slave state and there were more African-American slaves than there were white people.
- They lived in poor conditions and endured a hard life of labour and mistreatment.
- Nat Turner’s visions made him believe that it was necessary for him to confront the injustices of slavery in a battle of God’s kingdom against the anti-kingdom.
- In his adulthood, Nat Turner’s religious beliefs became almost fanatical and he had a strong influence on nearby slaves that he would preach to.
- He was passionately against slavery.
- In 1831, Turner was sold to another slave owner named Joseph Travis.
- It was at this time that Tuner witnessed a solar eclipse, which he believed was a sign from God for him to take action soon. He interpreted it as a black man’s hand going over the sun.
- Turner’s plan was to recruit other slaves, capture the armoury, and then go to Dismal Swamp, 30 miles east of Southampton as this would make their capture difficult.
- Turner and the other slaves had no training and little organization.
- On the night of 21 August, 1831, Turner and seven slaves launched a murderous campaign, aiming to kill anyone they could.
- The first victims were Travis and his family.
- Over the next two days and nights, about 60 white people including women and children were killed by the rebels, who had grown in number to 75.
- The rebels would travel from house to house to free slaves and kill any white people they encountered.
- Because it was too difficult to get guns and it would draw too much attention, the rebels carried knives, hatchets, axes, and clubs.
- The killings brought in the state militia, consisting of about 3,000 white men.
- The militia dispersed the rebels and many were killed or captured.
- Even some innocent slaves were caught up in the chaos and killed.
- Nat Turner was able to escape and stayed in hiding for six weeks.
- When Turner was eventually captured, he confessed that he only killed one person.
- After the rebellion was crushed, the state executed 56 black people and militias killed a further 100. In total, around 120 black people and 60 white people were killed.
- As news of the rebellion spread, more violence broke out as white people became fearful of slave revolts and would attack black people.
- Turner remained in hiding in Virginia for six weeks.
- On October 30, 1831, a farmer discovered Turner hiding in a covered ditch.
- Turner was put on trial on November 5, 1831, for conspiring to rebel and make insurrection.
- He showed no remorse for the rebellion, saying, “Was Christ not crucified?”
- For his crimes, he was hanged. His body was then drawn and quartered to act as a warning.
- After his death, author Thomas Ruffin Gray published “The Confessions of Nat Turner”.
Nat Turner Worksheets
This bundle contains 10 ready-to-use Nat Turner Worksheets that are perfect for students who want to learn more about Nat Turner, who was an African-American slave born in Southampton County, Virginia. He led the most famous slave rebellion against the white slave owners in 1831.
Download includes the following worksheets:
- Nat Turner Facts
- The Confessor
- Famous Abolitionist
- Slavery Resistance
- Looking for Signs
- History in Review
- True or False
- Heroes of History
- Black Lives Matter
- Picture This
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Use With Any Curriculum
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