Nat Turner, Was he a Prophet?   Leave a comment

Nat Turner, Was he a Prophet?

Was Nat Turner a prophet? Did he love his race so much, he was willing to die for it? Me, myself, I have concluded by reading Nat Turner material and all the research associated with the events which took place, it was not about murder for Nat Turner. In other words, it was not something he enjoyed doing, I believe he truly believed in what he was doing and he believed he was following instructions. I guess we wlll never know the truth about a man who knew no book but the bible.

Nat Turner was an American slave, owned by Samuel Turner, who led a slave rebellion in Virginia on August 21, 1831. This slave rebellion resulted in 60 white deaths and sent fear throughout the south. As a consequence of these killings, the state executed 56 blacks suspected of being involved in the uprising. In the aftermath, close to 200 blacks, many of whom had nothing to do with the rebellion were beaten, tortured and killed.

Nat Turner was close to his paternal grandmother Bridget, who was also enslaved by Samuel Turner. Turner spent most of his life in Southhampton County, Virgina, a predominantly black area.

Turner had natural intelligence and quickness of apprehension, surpassed by few. He learned to read and write at a young age and he was deeply religious.

Nat expressed that he frequently experienced visions which he interpreted as messages from God. These visions greatly influenced his life, for instance, when Turner was 22 years old, he ran away from his owner but returned a month later after having a vision. He was dubbed “The Prophet”. Turner also had influences over white people and in the case of Ethelred T. Brantley, Turner said that he was able to convince Brantley to “cease from his wickedness”.

At the age of 28, Nat was convinced he was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty. While working in his owner’s fields on May 12, Turner “heard a loud noise in the heavens, and the spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was loosened and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first. Turner was convinced that God had gven him the task of slaying his enemies with their own weapons. Turner communicated the great work laid out for him to do, to four in whom he had the greatest confidence, his fellow slaves Heny, Hark, Nelson and Sam.

Beginning in February 1831, Turner came to believe that certain atmospheric conditions were to be interpreted as a sign that he should begin preparing for a rebellion against the slave owners.

On February 11, 1831, an annular solar eclipse was seen in Virginia. Turner saw this as a black man’s hand reaching over the sun and he took this vision as a sign. The rebellion was initially planned for July 4th, Independence day, but was postponed for more deliberation between him and his followers. On August 13th, there was another solar eclipse, in which the sun appeared bluish green (possibly from debris deposited in the atmosphere by an eruption of Mount Saint Helens). Turner took this occasion as the final signal and a week later, on August 21st, he began the rebellion.

The Rebellion

Turner started with a few trusted fellow slaves. The rebels travelled from house to house, freeing slaves and killing the white people they found. The rebels ultimately included more than 70 enslaved and free blacks.

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. The rebellion did not discriminate by age or sex, until it was determined that the rebellion had achieved sufficient numbers. Nat Turner confessed to killing only one of the rebellion’s victims, Margaret Whitehead, whom he killed with a blow from a fence post.

Before a white militia was able to 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”. Turner also thought that revolutionary violence would serve to awaken the attitudes of whites to the reality of the inherent brutality in slave-holding, a concept similar to 20th century philosopher Franz Fanon’s idea of “violence of purgatory.

Turner later said that he wanted to spread terror and alarm among whites.

Capture and Execution

The rebellion was suppressed within two days, but Turner eluded capture until October 30th, when he was discovered hiding in a hole covered with fence rails. On November 5th, 1831, he was tried convicted and sentenced to death. Turner was hanged on November 11th, in Jerusalem, Virginia now known as Courtland, Virginia. His body was flayed, beheaded and quartered. In the aftermath of the insurrection there were 45 slaves, including Turner and five free blacks tried for insurrection and related crimes in Southampton. Of the 45 slaves tried, 15 were aquitted. Of the 30 convicted, 18 were hanged, while 12 received mercy and were sold out of state. Of the five free blacks tried for participation in the insurrection, one was hanged, while the other was aquitted.

After his execution, a local lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray, took it upon himself to publish The Confessions of Nat Turner, derived partly from the research done while Turner was in hiding and partly from jailhouse conversations with Turner before trial. This work is the primary historical document regarding Nat Turner.


Looking back, Nat Turner remains an “enigmatic and controversial figure” according to University of Massachusetts history professor Stephen B. Oates, given that Turner fought for the just anti-slavery cause, but he proceeded in acts of violence against women and children that today would be considered as war crimes or terrorism. Among many, perhaps most, African Americans in the antebellum period up to today. Turner’s legacy takes on a heroic status as someone willing to make slave-owners pay for the hardships that they enacted upon the millions of children, women and men they enslaved. Black church historical writer, James H. Harris, has argued that the revolt “marked the turning point in the black struggle for liberation” since, in his view, “only a catclysmic act could convice the architects of a violent social order that violence begets violence.

Shortly after the revolt, Turner’s motives and ideas were generally seen as opaque and too uncear to either support or condemn by most American whites. Ante-bellum slave holding whites clearly experienced a major psychological shock and lived in greater fear of future rebellions with Turner’s name working as “a symbol of terrorism and violent retribution. Turner eventually received praise in a seminal Atlantic Monthly article in 1861 by Thomas Higginson, who called him 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”. However, writings after the September 11th attacks, William L. Andrews drew analogies between Turner and modern “religio-political terrorists”.


Posted February 23, 2012 by pennylibertygbow in Uncategorized

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