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The Confession of Nat Turner in Prison Essay

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Updated: Mar 4th, 2022


The document accounts for the well-known Turner’s slave insurgence that happened in Southampton Co., VA in the year 1831. During the late 18th and early 19th century, the revolts and rebellions of the slave started in the whole of the Western Hemisphere. The rebellion was headed by a slave Known as Nat Turner. The rebellion brought about the enlightenment to the traditions of resistance to slavery of the Southern antebellum community.

Main body

Southampton County was to an extent an economic remote place. Regions of the county were enclosed with forest and presence of some swampy areas. Farms were small and people grew a range of crops in a pattern of mixed agriculture. The confession of the massacre carried out by the gang was made by Turner while in prison after being captured by Benjamin Phipps. The destruction was so cruel and people had various mythical ways of explaining the incident.

The ways through which the slaves were detained and put to death are also shown vividly in the beginning of the carnage. However, no one knew about the motives and means by which the slaves had plotted to achieve their mission. The dilemma ended when Nat Turner was arrested by Benjamin Phipps (Page 3). Turner’s account of the reason behind the source of the brutal and destructive bloodshed.

The origin of the bloodshed was not brought about by the intentions of unexpected anger. If Turner’s statements can be relied on, the rebellion in the county was entirely local and his designs confided but to a few. All these were in his immediate vicinity. The carnage was not instigated by motives of revenge or sudden anger. Rather it was something that was long thought of and premeditated on by Turner’s mind. From the account of the confession given to Thomas Gray, the root cause of that massacre was not a revenge one.

It is apparent that the cause was his childhood life. His strong roots are brought out when he says “Even at this time when am helpless and forsaken I cannot divest myself of” (Page 7). Still in the reminiscent life, Turner recalls that when he was still a kid at around three or four years of age, he played with other kids. This is the time when his mother heard him telling the other kids of stories which had happened even prior to his delivery. Due to this he was referred to as a ‘’prophet’’ and his parents admitted that. They went ahead and even said “You are intended for a great purpose” (Page 9).

Turner elaborated the common capabilities he had as a child whom his grandmother he treasured was pointing out. The marks were outgrowths which were very common with Africa Americans. Had prediction of presence of certain spots on his head and breast. Turner urges to have been visited by Holy Spirit and many miracles happened to him. They included the blood drops on corn, revelations of tide operations, and the changes in season and planet revolution.

The supernatural attributes pose an opportunity to Turner. He held a book and in the process saw things that he had imagined of. He confessed that on certain occasion, he cried when a book was offered to him and begun spelling names of diverse objects.

A change in the life of Turner came in when he claimed that certain spirit spoke to him and told him “To seek the kingdom of heaven and all things shall be added to him!” (Page 7). With this, he reflected on his childhood life and realized the necessity to fulfill his childhood ambitions. He knew that he possessed numerous people by him as it is depicted that his wisdom came from God. Though Turner sought for a self exile, he returned because the “spirit” communicated to him and ordered him to do so. His many visions also made him see both the spirits fight and in it, he perceived a voice commanding him to ensure that what he saw came to be.

Turner’s leadership and as a pioneer of the execution process of the slaves was a cruel one. His desire to start his mission was hampered by the pressure that was exerted on him. It was so great that at some point he fell sick. However, at long last he had a plan and together with other allies who were his strongest men, he started his mission (Page 13).

He did much evil deeds on the slaves although no white was prepared or had any suspicion that death was looming. It is apparent that the gang had no mercy to anyone. The narrator points out that the only thing the ruthless gang treasured most was the safety of their lives although they mercilessly killed people as a gang. This is shown when Dr. Blunt’s house was attacked. Despite the large number, the gang fled away from a house that was secured by only two men and three boys. Some of the members were later shot down as others captured and punished. The offspring of dismal zeal acting upon materials was too well prepared for the impressions. It will be long memorized in the archives of the nation.

The first victim to fall under this brutal killing was Travis, who as given in the document happened to be Turner’s master. In that period, the brutal killings were executed. One can visualize and picture out the ruthless ways in which the killings were conducted from family to family. “The repeated blows with a sword, I killed her by a blow on the head” (Page 14). “Were only stunned by the blows of their guns, as they did not take time to re-load when they charged on them.

With the horrors of the late scene before her, she lay concealed until the next day” (Page 19). Everything seemed to be fine with his allies’ number rising steadily. “At this time we were forty strong men” (Page number 13).There was a complete change of events all of sudden when he was on way to Jerusalem. He was assailed by fortified whites. Though he managed to flee at last, his gang was divided up and some of his strong men were seriously wounded. The slavery here is depicted as a cruel act which brings in anguish to the victims including their immediate relatives and associates. The performances need to be abolished.

Gray’s purpose of publishing the confession was probably of making profit as he required the cash. In the earlier couple of years, Gray went from possessing 29 slaves to having one. His landholdings reduced from 800 acres to 300 acres. During the post-revolt examination, Gray’s father passed away, leaving him out of the will. This document may be a communal service in generating a dependable version for the general community.

Gray describes Turner as an intelligent person he has ever met. Gray makes it clear that Turner was taught how to read and inscribe. Can also be realized that there were few whites who evaded death by a whisker. The young girl said “Lord helped me escape death” (Page 19). The narrator wants the readers to know how canning and cruel Turner was. The Confessions provided the opportunity to shape the tale into a hostile portrayal of Turner.

Turner was evasive at some point. Although he fled from the initial capture, evasion from the hand of the law later on did not succeed. The Turner’s new hiding place in the end turned to be his arresting place. Benjamin captured and jailed him. As Turner’s plot account was made public, the mechanism by which the group was founded and how it begun executing the extrajudicial killings among the slaves emerged very clear. “The police force should look at the welfare and security of everyone whereas each community should check on its own” (Page 21). While in court, Turner admitted the confession to Mr. Gray.

This is when he said “I am ready to face the death sentence” (Page 20). The criminal brought in no proof and the case was presented with no quarrel to the court. Jeremiah Cobb, Esq. Chairman passed the court verdict. “Nat Turner! Stand up. Have you any thing to say why sentence of death should not be pronounced against you?” (Page 20). Turner replied that he didn’t have but made complete confession to Mr. Gray. At long last, he is found guilty and death sentence is placed on him.


Today Turner is still a problematic figure. Incase he is accepted as a revolutionary in America then his ways of violence is sanctioned too. But still, other Americans consider him a man of God who worked hard against injustice. He is seen by others as a leader within a black community. He is also viewed by others as a religious extremist. He is a figure that brings about controversy in the history of the United States.

Work Cited

Hempel, C. and Smith, N. The Acknowledgments of Nat Turner: the Head of the Late.

Revolution in Southampton, VA. North Carolina University at Chapel Hill, 1999. Web.

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