On August 21, 1831, Nat Turner leads The Virginia SouthHampton County Black Liberation Army that used axes, hatchets, knives, and muskets to kill 55 white Virginians. By August 23, the revolt was suppressed and his followers were apprehended. Turner escaped and hid in the woods for two months until he was captured and taken to the jailhouse in the county seat of Jerusalem, today the town of Courtland, Virginia. Following the Southampton County slave rebellion, it was feared many of the insurgents planned to flee to the The Great Dismal Swamp, causing speculation he was hiding in The Great Dismal Swamp. Expeditions searched for him, capturing a number of maroons. there was this excerpt in The Constitutional Whig, Richmond, VA 23 August 1831: We understand that the insurrection in Southampton is little more than the irruption of 150 or 200 runaway slaves from the Dismal Swamp,
” You asked me to give a history of the motive which induced me to undertake the late insurrection as you call it, to do so I must go back to the days of my infancy and even before I was Born “ – Nat Turner
There was widespread fear in the aftermath of the rebellion, and white militias organized in retaliation against the slaves. The state executed 56 slaves accused of being part of the rebellion. In the frenzy, many non-participant slaves were punished. Approximately 120 slaves and free African Americans were murdered by militias and mobs in the area. Across the South, state legislatures passed new laws prohibiting education of slaves and free black people, restricting rights of assembly and other civil rights for free black people, and requiring white ministers to be present at all worship services.
Black August The Nat Turner & The BLA 1831 Edition:
Nat Turner’s Visions Sky Watching & Spiritual Prophecy
Turner was highly intelligent and learned how to read and write at a young age. He grew up deeply religious and was often seen fasting, praying or immersed in reading the stories of the Bible. He frequently had visions, which he interpreted as messages from God. These visions greatly influenced his life. For instance, when Turner was 21 years old he ran away from his owner, Samuel Turner, but returned a month later after becoming delirious from hunger and receiving a vision that told him to “return to the service of my earthly master”. In 1824, while working in the fields under his new owner, Thomas Moore, Turner had his second vision, in which “the Saviour was about to lay down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and the great day of judgment was at hand”. Turner often conducted Baptist services, and preached the Bible to his fellow slaves, who dubbed him “the Prophet”.
Turner also had an influence over white people. In the case of Ethelred T. Brantley, Turner said that he was able to convince Brantley to “cease from his wickedness”. By the spring of 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”.
In 1830, Joseph Travis purchased Turner and became his master. Turner later recalled that Travis was “a kind master” who had “placed the greatest confidence in” him. Turner eagerly anticipated God’s signal to start his task of “slay[ing] my enemies with their own weapons”. For six years, from 12 May 1825 to February 1831, the outcast prophet remained silent about his insurrectionary visions. He prayed and fasted, but he did not tell the blacks of Southampton about his premonitions of war. According to The Confessions, he told no one of his visions until an eclipse of the sun in February of 1831: Turner envisioned this as a black man’s hand reaching over the sun. Following in the steps of the late Denmark Vesey of South Carolina, he started preparations for a “rising” or rebellion against the white slaveholders of Southampton County by purchasing muskets. Turner “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
Turner had originally planned for the rebellion to begin on July 4, 1831, but had fallen ill, pushing the date back until August 22. He started with several trusted fellow slaves, and ultimately gathered more than 70 enslaved and free blacks, some of whom were mounted on horseback. On August 13, 1831, an atmospheric disturbance made the sun appear bluish-green. Taking this as the final signal, he began the rebellion a week later on August 21. The rebels traveled from house to house, freeing slaves and killing all the white people they encountered.
Nat Turner BLA ( Historical Marker, Igbo Odugwu Ritual Myth, Libation & Resistance ) – Haki Kweli Shakur
As muskets and firearms were too difficult to collect and would gather unwanted attention, the rebels used knives, hatchets, axes, and blunt instruments instead of firearms. Historian Stephen B. Oates states that Turner called on his group to “kill all the white people”. A contemporary newspaper noted, “Turner declared that ‘indiscriminate slaughter was not their intention after they attained a foothold, and was resorted to in the first instance to strike terror and alarm.'” The group spared a few homes “because Turner believed the poor white inhabitants ‘thought no better of themselves than they did of negroes.'”
The rebels spared almost no one whom they encountered, with the exception of a small child who hid in a fireplace among the few survivors. The insurgents killed approximately sixty white men, women, and children before they were defeated. Eventually, the white state militia — infantry with twice the manpower of the rebels, reinforced by three companies of artillery — were able to defeat the insurrection.
The Rebecca Vaughan House is the last remaining intact building in Southampton County at which owners and their families were killed in the Nat Turner Insurrection.
Where there is struggle there is sacrifice and death is a common occurrence” The Black Liberation Army
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