Call number: Broadside 1831:2
This broadside recounts Nat Turner's (1800–1831) slave rebellion in Southampton County in 1831. It was published in New York in 1832. Previous uprisings, like Gabriel's in 1800, had been exposed by informers, so Turner kept his plans to himself, counting on the revolt to attract recruits spontaneously once set in action, which is what happened.
Turner was born in 1800 in Southampton County, Virginia, to a slave woman born in Africa and a father who possibly escaped to the North. Turner learned to read, probably from his master's son. Turner always was religious and became a lay preacher, but after he was twice sold he became convinced that God wanted him to liberate the slaves and punish the guilty white world.
A solar eclipse was taken as a sign to act. Originally, the revolt was scheduled for July 4th, but illness forced postponement until August 21, 1831, when Turner and four or five associates killed the Travis family that owned Turner. By August 23, when the militia crushed the insurrection, Turner's followers had grown to 60 to 80 and his white victims—men, women, and children—numbered between 57 and 65.
For six weeks Turner eluded capture. Then he was tried and executed at the county seat of Jerusalem (now Courtland), which led to slave songs comparing his sufferings to Christ's at his Jerusalem.
In the aftermath, the militiamen killed about 120 innocent blacks. Many Virginians wrongly blamed northern agitation for what was a very homegrown rebellion. A legislative proposal to gradually end slavery was narrowly defeated and a harsh new slave code was instituted in Virginia and throughout the South.