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Nat Turner's Rebellion

Andrew Jackson

Nat Turner's Rebellion: Andrew Jackson was the 7th American President who served in office from March 4, 1829 to March 4, 1837. One of the important events during his presidency was Nat Turner's Rebellion in 1831.

Definition and Summary of the Nat Turner's Rebellion
Summary and definition:
Nat Turner's Rebellion, also referred to as the Southampton Insurrection, was a slave revolt led by their religious leader, Nat Turner, that started on August 21, 1831 and was quashed within 48 hours. Nat Turner had been joined by about 60 slaves who killed up to 65 white people.

The state executed 55 slaves, including Nat Turner who was captured on October 30, 1831. At least a further 200 slaves were murdered by white mobs fuelled by the hysterical climate that followed the revolt. Nat Turner's rebellion raised southern fears of a general slave uprising and had a profound effect on the attitude of Southerners towards slavery.

Nat Turner's Rebellion for kids: Background History, the Cotton Cash Crop and the growth of Slavery
Nat Turner's Rebellion was a direct result of the growth of slavery in the South. The invention of the  Eli Whitney Cotton Gin had made slave labor vastly more profitable
as cotton became a highly profitable cash crop that used the slave plantation system of farming. The rise of 'King Cotton' ended all hopes of peaceful emancipation in the South.    

Nat Turner's Rebellion for kids: Background History, the Fear of Slave Revolts
Nat Turner's Rebellion, and its bloody aftermath, had been feared and anticipated by U.S. slave owners since the Haitian Revolution (17911804), a slave revolt in the French colony of Saint-Domingue with coffee and sugar plantations in which over 60,000 people were slaughtered. Southerners realized that their own slaves might rise up against them. And they were correct. Small, short-lived slave revolts had been had been suppressed in the Southern states. 1800, Virginia (Gabriel Prosser), 1803, Georgia (Igbo Landing), 1805, Virginia (Chatham Manor), 1811, Louisiana (German Coast Uprising), 1815, Virginia (George Boxley), 1822
South Carolina (Denmark Vesey).

Nat Turner's Rebellion for kids: Background History, the Abolitionists
About a year before Nat Turner's Rebellion a new movement in favor of the negroes began in the North.  A preacher called William Ellery Channing (1780 1842), proposed that slaves should be set free, and their owners paid for their loss from the sale of government owned lands. A Boston journalist called William Lloyd Garrison (1805 1879)  began the publication of a paper called the Liberator and went one step further. He proposed for complete abolition of slavery without payment to slave owners. Abolitionism was based in the North, and white Southerners alleged it fostered slave rebellion. The religious revival movement, referred to as the Second Great Awakening, also inspired slaves to demand freedom. Nat Turner, unlike most slaves, had learnt how to read. He was deeply religious man, he experienced a series of 'visions' and no doubt influenced by the Second Great Awakening and probably the literature of the Abolitionists. The
Abolitionist Movement was established in 1830. Also refer to the Fugitive Slave Act.

Nat Turner's Rebellion
All of the above factors were relevant to the insurrection and the subsequent events surrounding Nat Turner's rebellion.

When did Nat Turner's Rebellion take place?
Nat Turner's Rebellion began on August 21, 1831 and ended when he was captured on October 30, 1831.

Where did Nat Turner's Rebellion take place?
Nat Turner's Rebellion took place in Southampton County, Virginia. The small group of conspirators met at a place called Cabin Pond with the immediate goal of getting to Jerusalem (now renamed Courtland) The town of Jerusalem was a small hamlet with less than 200 people.

What was the effect and impact of Nat Turner's Rebellion?
The effect of Nat Turner's Rebellion was:

  • There was hysteria throughout the South, rumors of slave armies abounded and bloody, retaliatory acts of revenge were inflicted on slaves throughout the South who had not been involved or implicated in the revolt

  • The severed heads of slaves were displayed at crossroads, mounted on poles, as a deterrent to any further acts of rebellion

  • Frightened Southerners believed that the actions of Northern Abolitionists and their anti-slavery agitation would lead to more rebellions

  • Some Northerners also opposed to Abolitionism led to anti-abolitionist riots in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Hampshire

  • Southerners called upon the government to ban the dispatch of the Liberator, and similar "incendiary publications", through the mail

  • The bloody slaughter of innocent slaves, as retaliatory acts to the rebellion, led to bitter resentment among the slave population and sympathy in the North. This led to the formation of groups dedicated to helping slaves escape from slavery - These groups would become known as the Underground Railroad

What was the Significance of Nat Turner's Rebellion?
The Nat Turner's Rebellion

  • Southern fears of a general slave uprising significantly increased and had a profound effect on the attitude of Southerners towards slavery

  • The Virginia legislature passed new legislation in the Spring of 1832 making it unlawful to teach slaves, free blacks, or mulattoes to read or write

  • A state law was also passed restricting all blacks from holding religious meetings without the presence of a licensed white minister

  • Other Southern states implemented the same laws which resulted in widespread illiteracy among slaves

  • The proposed bill to restrict 'incendiary publications' failed to pass in the Senate - it was opposed as an act of censorship, against the freedom of the press

  • Thousands of anti-slavery publications descended from the North, which infuriated Southerners

Nat Turner Rebellion Facts for kids
Interesting Nat Turner Rebellion Facts, Timeline and Biography for kids are detailed below. The history of Nat Turner's Rebellion is told in a biographical timeline sequence consisting of a series of short facts providing a simple method of relating the life of the slave, his owners, a history of the revolt with timeline dates, his capture, the imprisonment and the death of Nat Turner. The revolt was well documented in the newspapers of the era and on December 1831 "The Confessions of Nat Turner" were published in Baltimore, Maryland  by a lawyer called Thomas Ruffin Gray. The "Confessions" of Nat Turner were dictated to Thomas R. Gray whilst he was imprisoned in the Southampton County Jail. The Nat Turner Rebellion Facts, Timeline and Biography are taken from a number of these sources.

1800: Nathaniel Turner was born on October 2, 1800 in Cross Keys, Virginia

His mother was an African slave, who was given the name Nancy. His father was her owner, Benjamin Turner

His mother rejected the mixed race child and Nathaniel was placed in the care of a slave couple called Harriet and Tom

Nathaniel learns how to read, it is not clear who taught him but it was probably a preacher, and he was allowed to read the Bible. There is Methodist society in Cross Keys who worship in Benjamin's meeting house

1809: Benjamin transfers the ownership of Nathaniel to his son Samuel

1810: Benjamin dies and Nathaniel is set to work in the fields by Samuel

1810: Nathaniel's foster father, Tom, escapes

1817: Nathaniel experiences his first spiritual message, others follow

1821: Nathaniel is forced to marry a slave called Cherry. Cherry is believed to have two children

1823: Samuel Turner dies and Nathaniel and Cherry are put on the auction block and sold to different owners.

1823: The name of Nathaniel's new owner is Thomas Moore. Cherry and the children are sold to Giles Reese for $40

1825: Nathaniel experiences spiritual visions and slaves believe he has divine powers.

1828: His owner Thomas Moore dies and the ownership of Nathaniel is passed to six-year old Putnam Moore

1828: Nathaniel experiences a vision that commands a Holy War

1830: Thomas Moore's widow marries Joseph Travis who becomes the stepfather of Putnam Moore (Nathaniel's owner)

August 14, 1831: The Cross Keys congregation visit the Barnes Methodist Church and the sermon calls for slaves to join the Holy War

August 21, 1831: A solar eclipse was seen as a sign to stage an insurrection.

August 21, 1831: Seven men (Nelson Williams, Sam Francis, Jack Reese, Will Francis,  Henry Porter and Hark Travis) dine with Nathaniel at Cabin Pond. The revolt begins that night.

August 21, 1831: The Travis household was their first target - the entire family is killed.

August 21, 1831: Other slaves join the revolt and the killing continued through the night until the next day.

August 22, 1831: The number of slaves in the revolt increased further, to about 60 in total, most of whom were on horseback

August 22, 1831: By the afternoon the slaves were making way to Jerusalem, the nearest town. But the news of the revolt had spread and the militia had been called out. By this time about 60 white people had been killed

August 22, 1831: The slaves fought state and federal troops. Some were captured, others including Nathaniel escaped. The slave army dispersed.

At least 200 slaves were murdered by white mobs fuelled by the hysterical climate that followed the revolt - the skulls of beheaded slaves were displayed at crossroads

October 30, 1831: After 70 days on the run Nathaniel is captured by Benjamin Phipps who discovered him in a ditch covered with fence rails

October 30, 1831: Nathaniel is taken to Southampton County Jail where he is whipped

November 1-4, 1831: The "Confessions" of Nat Turner were dictated to the lawyer Thomas R. Gray who had previously represented several other slaves charged in the uprising

November 5, 1831: The trial at the Southampton County Court. Nathaniel is found guilty as an insurgent (rebel) and is sentenced to be hanged.

November 11, 1831: Nathaniel is hung at noon.

November 12, 1831: The body of Nathaniel is desecrated - he is skinned, his flesh is ripped from the bones, his body was beheaded and quartered

December 1831: "The Confessions of Nat Turner" were published in Baltimore, Maryland  by Thomas R. Gray.

US American History
1829-1841: Jacksonian Era

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