1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Turner, Nat

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TURNER, NAT (1800-1831), the negro leader of a slave insurrection in Virginia, known as the “Southampton Insurrection,” was born in Southampton county, Virginia, in 1800. From his childhood he claimed to see visions and hear voices, and he became a Baptist preacher of great influence among the negroes. In 1828 he confided to a few companions that a voice from heaven had announced that “the last shall be first,” which was interpreted to mean that the slaves should control. An insurrection was planned, and a solar eclipse in February 1831 and peculiar atmospheric conditions on the 13th of August were accepted as the signal for beginning the work. On the night of the 21st of August 1831, with seven companions, he entered the home of his master, Joseph Travis, and murdered the inmates. After securing guns, horses and liquor they visited other houses, sparing no one. Recruits were added, in some cases by compulsion, until the band numbered about sixty. About noon on the 22nd they were scattered by a small force of whites, hastily gathered. Troops, marines and militia were hurried to the scene, and the negroes were hunted down. In all thirteen men, eighteen women, and twenty-four children had been butchered. After hiding for several weeks Nat was captured on the 30th of October and was tried and hanged, having made, meanwhile, a full confession. Nineteen of his associates were hanged and twelve were sent out of the state. The insurrection, which was attributed to the teachings of the abolitionists, led to the enactment of stricter slave codes.

See S. B. Weeks, “Slave Insurrections in Virginia,” in Magazine of American History, vol. xxxi. (New York, 1891), and W. S. Drewry, The Southampton Insurrection (Washington, 1900).