Nat Turner (October 2, 1800 – November 11, 1831)
Nat Turner was an enslaved African-American preacher who led a two-day rebellion of both enslaved and free black people in Southampton County, Virginia, beginning August 21, 1831. The rebellion caused the death of approximately 60 white men, women and children. Whites organized militias and called out regular troops to suppress the uprising. In addition, white militias and mobs attacked blacks in the area, killing an estimated 120, many of whom were not involved in the revolt.
The rebels went from plantation to plantation, gathering horses and guns, freeing and recruiting others along the way. During the rebellion, Virginia legislators targeted free blacks with a colonization bill, which allocated new funding to remove them, and a police bill that denied free blacks trials by jury and made any free blacks convicted of a crime subject to sale into slavery and relocation.
In the aftermath, the state tried those accused of being part of Turner’s slave rebellion: 18 were executed, 14 were transported out of state, and several were acquitted. Turner hid successfully for two months. When found, he was tried, convicted, sentenced to death, hanged and possibly beheaded. Across Virginia and other southern states, state legislators passed new laws to control slaves and free blacks. They prohibited education of slaves and free blacks, restricted rights of assembly for free blacks, withdrew their right to bear arms (in some states), and to vote (in North Carolina, for instance), and required white ministers to be present at all black worship services.