Home > Free Essays > History > African American Studies > Nat Turner and the Slave Revolt

Nat Turner and the Slave Revolt Essay

Exclusively available on IvyPanda Available only on IvyPanda
Updated: Dec 4th, 2019


Nat Turner acknowledged the worth of freedom early in 1800s at a tender age. As a lay cleric at such a time, Nat Turner utilized his immaculate status in planning a slave insurgence in 1831 (French 26). His action instilled fear together with ignorance on Virginia whites regarding the practice of slavery.

Consequently, these led to several repercussions towards slaves despite the probable Southern Christian advances. Leading a group consisting of eight slaves, Nat Turner ravaged Travis house that was located in Southampton County. After close to two days, the slave mob proportions rose to over sixty rioters, who utilized the chance to slay close to fifty-eight whites before the intervention of the local people.

This was within and around the environs of Jerusalem, Virginia (French 36). The rebellion increased the Southern panic since they believed that a slave uprising was in the offing; furthermore, they established significant influence on perceptions towards slavery. The incident in Virginia led to the killing of five people from Travis family by the revolt group. Remarkably, this incident signified the start and foundation of slave unrest referred to as the “Nat Turner’s Rebellion”.

Nat Turner’s Life and Slavery

Northern states in the US begun to initiate structures against slavery in 1820’s despite the persistence on slavery by Southerners’ white inhabitants. Nat Turner served as a slave in a little farm located at Southampton, Virginia during this period (Burgan 4). The era was marked with total disregard of human entitlements of these slaves.

They were properties of their owners and received orders from the masters with minimal priorities in life. Forced labor compounded with harsh treatment dominated the industry, with their overseers insisting on duties with disregard of slaves’ health status and demands. Nat Turner had religious convictions and strong belief that God did not like their suffering and hardships enforced on them by white masters (Burgan 6).

Consequently, he believed that one day they would be relieved of this pain. His character and ability to talk of God’s messages made him gain popularity and influence among other slaves (Gregson 18). Additionally, his unique ability to read and write without attending school reflected a special gift from God.

He constantly heard God’s voice and one day escaped to the woods from the slavery farm. This is due to, harsh inhumane, treatments from his immediate overseer. However, his return made him loose many friends, and he frequently prayed alone.

His belief now was that God wanted him to give liberty to slaves by killing their masters (Burgan 9). In 1830 after moving to Joseph Travis’ farm, he had a vision from the sun’s eclipse. The belief of his explanations by other slaves initiated the planning of the “Nat Turner’s revolt”. The venom of rebellion spread to other slaves and soon, it exploded.

Emergence of Slave Rebellion

Slave insurgence noted during 1970’s, particularly the Santo Domingo massive killings instilled great fear and awareness to the Southerners about a lurking slave turn round. Additionally the period 1820 and 1831 was characterized by several slave conspiracies that were not great in magnitude as the Nat Turner’s uprising (French 11).

Nonetheless, these conspiracies were indicative of the will to subvert this inhumane practice by the black slave community. The peak of this will was the Nat Turner uprising that ended in two days (Burgan 13). Nat Turner managed to escape after successfully leading a seventy-man team that spread terror in the farms of Travis, killing several whites.

Other slaves never joined this team since they dreaded the likely futility of his endeavors. Slavery had become part of their life style, and they could not imagine a slave-free world. The early 1800 had slavery as the predominant practice in the Southern (Bland 8).

This malpractice got immense support from the political community of the south and possession of slaves by plant owners or farmers signified status and great wealth. In addition, slavery during the period was a means of racial management as there was a belief that keeping the blacks busy in whites’ farms occupied their time and ability to cause a revolution.

Virginia authorized slaves to attend their own learning centers and religious gatherings despite enforcing slavery through military guard. Relative to Deep South, Virginia farmers were more kind to their slaves. They gave them holiday leaves and considered their families welfare. A majority of Southampton population never had slaves. Consequently, they had not encountered any danger of rebellion (Gregson 7).

This could perhaps explain why they were more lenient to these slaves. Considerably, the absence of encounters with slave displeasure further enhanced the white viewpoint that the black slaves were content with their present conditions. While most salves could easily fit into their duties as servants, Nat Turner became divergent right from his birth. Nat’s body had birthmarks that symbolized leadership considering the African culture, had strange but potent psychic competencies, and became ever mystically conscious about past occurrences (Gregson 10).

His brightness earned him the opportunity to study about the bible, something that was unusual with other fellow slaves. His impeccable mannerisms also enabled him to share literacy several times and entertain the whites. Ironically, his special treatment became a harsh reality to him on the realization that he was not different from other slaves when he grew up.

Particularly, it turned to be painful moment since Nat had a conviction that he could get liberation one day (Gregson 16). This became the beginning of a journey to slave rebellion in the South.

The overwhelming reliance of the Southern agricultural-dependent economy could not choose the option for abandoning slave practice. However, the emergence of Christian manipulations brought contradictions that further created significant transformations on slavery practice (Gregson, 7). Whilst some rebuked slavery, other groups employed dubious biblical analogies to portray slavery as seemingly rightful before God.

Eminently, even Nat’s first masters insisted for the concept of Christianizing their slaves for sustainability. A consideration of the lifestyle and slavery in the South reflects that probably the monetary requirements combined with honest regard cushioned slavery as just cultured enough to entertain (French 50).

According to Nat, God never purposed someone of his caliber and intelligence to spend all his life toiling in farms for white people. The transition of his life into slavery made Nat a humble betrayer of the whites who had previously adored him for his intelligence.

He recognized the attention and freedom he received from his white bosses. Through his approach, the humble and submissive character he portrayed made him to likeable and not be linked to trouble. Nat neither got involved in theft nor drank alcohol, as other slaves would do.

His advancing age saw him culminate into a likeable slave preacher, with devout following of Baptist doctrines who influenced the African religious systems plus the whites. He stood out a morally upright person, who according to many masters was a good role model for slaves who were reliable and trusted. Joseph Travis on reception of Nat as a slave, believed he was the most obedient and hardworking slave one could own in the entire county.

Therefore, he let him continue with heading unsupervised religious gatherings. Ironically, it was finally via the meetings where he became competent to elucidate his convictions and assemble a team of slaves who had the passion to help in the uprising (Bland 30). Southern whites were insensitive to realize reasons why any slave revolt at that time would transpire although they dreaded one.

“Gabriel Prosser’s” insurgence that transpired in Richmond, Virginia brought panic to some whites since Richmond was considerably close to Southampton. Finally, during the August night of 1831, Nat Turner marshaled a team of fellow slaves who were heavily armed and they killed in white houses (Burgan 5). Nat though became undecided in the killing of some white families he had lived with during the premature throes of their insurgence.

The long-suffering enraged the slaves to avenge by killing mercilessly even the infants. Even his spiritual convictions could not stop his rage especially at the peak of the rebellion (Gregson 18). Letters reached Virginia governor informing him of the Turner rebellion and the magnitude of the massacre of white families in the Southampton.

Consequently, relevant legal actions emerged and militia groups concentrated the Jerusalem region in search of the insurgents who had escaped after the incidence. The incident led to a massive killing of blacks in these areas, this included even the innocent, nonpartisan groups, and families (French 25).

The whites could not contain this pain and most vigilante groups established and killed several black persons as revenge mission. Several blacks died in this operation, many of whom did not get involved and lacked awareness of the Turners’ insurgence. End of August had all the partisan slaves arrested spare for Turner alone who hid secretly in some woods situated at Southampton, close from where this revolt started.

Nat Turner surrendered later in October when Benjamin Phipps found him and cornered him at gunpoint (Bland 26). Consequently, his conviction of insurrection came in the same year and finally his hanging sentence took place in November. This marked the final punishment of all the insurgents who led to the killing of several whites (Gregson 36).

During the start of the revolt, Turner introduced other insurgents into the main bedroom of Travis family who killed them. This also included the killing of three members of this family. They also looted other properties such as horses together with guns the fled to neighboring Salathiel Francis’ home to kill further (Burgan 13).

The group increased in number as they acquired more guns and fighting machinery. They moved to Whitehead family where Nat killed Margaret, the family’s teenage daughter whom he found hiding outside. Throughout the revolt, Nat only killed one person, Margaret. The slaves carried anything they could from the homes of the whites whom they had killed and left them desolate.

The late revolt in Southampton culminated in elevated levels of excitement to the public and resulted in exaggerated and mischievous reports. This was the first case in history for an open revolt of slaves (Bland 28). Additionally, it emerged with appalling conditions of brutality and obliteration that left a significant consciousness throughout the entire South part of America.

In addition, public curiosity developed with interests to comprehend the roots and progress of the terrible conspiracy, together with the intentions that manipulated the diabolical actors involved (Bland 29). Detainment and execution of all the rebel slaves occurred within the state’s penal system. All of them refused to disclose satisfactorily to the authority their motives for engaging in such a horrific undertaking. This happened in the absence of their leader Nat Turner.


The Nat Turner insurgence marks one of the most dreaded slave operations in American history. The significant results of massive death and property loss for the whites influenced the slave industry. Additionally, the innocent massacre of the black population in the South by white militia necessitated government intervention and with time, slavery took a different direction.

The South followed the trend in North and restrictions on slavery slowly emanated in the land with motivation from regional and federal authorities. The rebellion emerged evidently as the chief turning point in the history of slavery and has since then been remembered.

Works Cited

Bland, Sterling. African American Slave Narratives: An Anthology. Connecticut, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000. Print.

Burgan, Michael. Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion. Minnesota, MN: Compass Point Books, 2006. Print.

French, Scot. The Rebellious Slave: Nat Turner In American Memory. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004. Print.

Gregson, Susan. Nat Turner: Rebellious Slave. Minnesota, MN. Capstone Press, 2003. Print.

This essay on Nat Turner and the Slave Revolt was written and submitted by your fellow student. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.
Removal Request
If you are the copyright owner of this paper and no longer wish to have your work published on IvyPanda.
Request the removal

Need a custom Essay sample written from scratch by
professional specifically for you?

801 certified writers online

Cite This paper
Select a referencing style:


IvyPanda. (2019, December 4). Nat Turner and the Slave Revolt. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nat-turner-and-the-slave-revolt/


IvyPanda. (2019, December 4). Nat Turner and the Slave Revolt. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/nat-turner-and-the-slave-revolt/

Work Cited

"Nat Turner and the Slave Revolt." IvyPanda, 4 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/nat-turner-and-the-slave-revolt/.

1. IvyPanda. "Nat Turner and the Slave Revolt." December 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nat-turner-and-the-slave-revolt/.


IvyPanda. "Nat Turner and the Slave Revolt." December 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nat-turner-and-the-slave-revolt/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Nat Turner and the Slave Revolt." December 4, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/nat-turner-and-the-slave-revolt/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Nat Turner and the Slave Revolt'. 4 December.

Powered by CiteTotal, free referencing generator
More related papers