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Marina Amaral @marinamaral2
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On this day in 1831: Former slave Nat Turner leads uprising against slavery. #thread
Born into slavery on October 2, 1800, in Southampton County, Virginia, Turner was recorded as "Nat" by Benjamin Turner, the man who held his mother and him as slaves. When Benjamin Turner died in 1810, Nat became the property of Benjamin's son Samuel Turner.
For most of his life he was known as "Nat", but after the 1831 rebellion, he was widely referred to as "Nat Turner". Turner knew little about the background of his father, who was believed to have escaped from slavery when Turner was a young boy.
Turner spent his entire life in Southampton County, a plantation area where slaves comprised the majority of the population. He learned to read and write at a young age. Deeply religious, Nat was often seen fasting, praying, or immersed in reading the stories of the Bible.
Turner's religious convictions manifested as frequent visions which he interpreted as messages from God. His belief in the visions was such that when he was 22 years old, he ran away from his owner and returned a month later after claiming to have received a spiritual revelation.
Joseph Dreis wrote: "He was convinced that God had given him the task of "slay[ing] my enemies with their own weapons."
Beginning in February 1831, Turner claimed certain atmospheric conditions as a sign to begin preparations for a rebellion against slaveowners. On February 12, an annular solar eclipse was visible in Virginia. He envisioned this as a black man's hand reaching over the sun.
On August 7 there was another solar eclipse in which the sun appeared bluish-green, possibly the result of lingering atmospheric debris from an eruption of Mount St. Helens. Turner interpreted this as the final signal, and about a week later, on August 21, he began the uprising.
Turner started with a few trusted fellow slaves. "All his initial recruits were other slaves from his neighborhood".

The neighborhood men had to find ways to communicate their intentions without giving up their plot.
"It is believed that one of the ways Turner summoned fellow conspirators to the woods was through the use of particular songs." The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing slaves and killing the white people they found.
Because the rebels did not want to alert anyone to their presence as they carried out their attacks, they initially used knives, hatchets, axes, and blunt instruments instead of firearms.
Nat Turner confessed to killing only one person, Margaret Whitehead, whom he killed with a blow from a fence post. Before a white militia could organize and respond, the rebels killed 60 men, women, and children.
They spared a few homes "because Turner believed the poor white inhabitants 'thought no better of themselves than they did of negros.'"
He also thought that revolutionary violence would serve to awaken the attitudes of whites to the reality of the inherent brutality in slave-holding.
The rebellion was suppressed within two days, but Turner eluded capture by hiding in the woods until October 30, when he was discovered by farmer Benjamin Phipps. He was hiding in a hole covered with fence rails.
While awaiting trial, Turner confessed his knowledge of the rebellion to attorney Thomas Ruffin Gray. On November 5, 1831, Turner was tried for "conspiring to rebel and making insurrection", convicted, and sentenced to death.
Turner was hanged on November 11 in Jerusalem, Virginia. His body was flayed and beheaded as an example to frighten other would-be rebels. Turner received no formal burial; his headless remains were possibly buried in an unmarked grave.
In the aftermath of the insurrection, 45 slaves, including Turner, and five free blacks were tried for insurrection and related crimes in Southampton. Of the 45 slaves tried, 15 were acquitted. Of the 30 convicted, 18 were hanged while 12 were sold out of state.
In total, the state executed some 55 black people suspected of having been involved in the uprising.
In the hysteria of aroused fears and anger in the days after the revolt, white militias and mobs killed an estimated 120 black people, many of whom had nothing to do with the rebellion.
In 1861 Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a northern writer, praised Turner in a seminal article published in Atlantic Monthly. He described Turner as a man "who knew no book but the Bible, and that by heart who devoted himself soul and body to the cause of his race."
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