Nat Turner was an enslaved African American who led a rebellion of slaves and free blacks in Southampton County, Virginia on August 21, 1831.
The rebels went from plantation to plantation, gathering horses and guns, freeing other slaves along the way, and recruiting other blacks who wanted to join their revolt.
The rebellion resulted in the deaths of 55 to 65 white people. 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.
In early 1828, Turner was convinced that 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.
Joseph Dreis wrote "In connecting this vision to the motivation for his rebellion, Turner makes it clear that he sees himself as participating in the confrontation between God's Kingdom and the anti-Kingdom that characterized his social-historical context.
"He was convinced that God had given him the task of "slay[ing] my enemies with their own weapons.”
Turner said, "I communicated the great work laid out for me to do, to four in whom I had the greatest confidence" – his fellow slaves Henry, Hark, Nelson, and Sam.
Beginning in February 1831, Turner claimed certain atmospheric conditions as a sign to begin preparations for a rebellion against slaveowners. On February 11, 1831, an annular solar eclipse was visible in Virginia. Turner envisioned this as a black man's hand reaching over the sun. He initially planned the rebellion to begin on July 4, Independence Day.
Turner postponed it because of illness and to use the delay for additional planning with his co-conspirators. On August 13 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 in present-day Washington state. Turner interpreted this as the final signal, and about a week later, on August 21, he began the uprising.
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