African Americans in America faced dehumanization during the time period of slavery. Due to the growing tension of this systematic process, conflict began to rise between whites and African Americans. African Americans began to view themselves as human beings with deserved equality, and protested their oppressive demands of forced labor through open defiance and rebellions. There weren't any successful rebellions in the United States; however, planter paranoia developed as insolence, disobedience, and gossips of revolts emerged. Retaliation was a consequence of slave betrayal and the attempt to turn Africans into obedient and passive slaves through terrorization included the murder of suspected leaders, breaking up families by selling them, and even murdering innocent African Americans. A notable slave revolt in history consisted of the Nat Turner rebellion of 1831. The Nat Turner rebellion was led by Nat Turner, a religious enslaved African who began his revolt by the murder of his masters' family in Virginia. Although not successful, it questioned the authority of whites and formed the American debate over slavery, which would ultimately lead to the civil war. The Nat Turner slave revolt, representing a form of defiance, was a symbol for the Africans persistent determination to terminate the systematic dehumanization that took place during slavery.
Nat Turner's life prior to the slave rebellion lacked consistency due to constant separation, whether it being from a slaveowner or family. When Nat Turner was born, he was a destined slave of Benjamin Turner. His mother, Nancy, and her husband were African born and also slaves of Benjamin Turner. Nat Turner experienced separation from his father at a young age due to his fathers escape to the north, and was therefore raised by his mother and paternal grandmother. Excluding separation within his family, Nat Turner experienced inconsistency with his slaveowners. When Benjamin Turner died, Samuel Turner inherited Nat Turner and his mother. In 1822, Nat Turner married a slave woman named Cherry; however, he was separated by both his mother and wife when Samuel Turner died and he began working for Thomas Moore. When Thomas Moore died in 1828, Thomas Moore's nine-year-old son by the name of Putnam Moore inherited Nat Turner. Separation between slaves or their slaveowners was a consequence of slavery, as demonstrated within the life of Nat Turner.
Nat turner was born on October 2, 1800 in Southampton, Virginia. As a child, Nat Turner learned to read and incorporated both his African beliefs and values of Christianity into his strong and complex faith. Nat Turner was heavily influenced by religion, particularly by his grandmother who was religious. His family recognized his "...uncommon intelligence for a child, remarked I had too much sense to be raised, and if I was I would never be of any service to any one as a slave. His ability to read resulted to knowledge of subjects, which was uncommon among slaves. During his spare time, Nat Turner would pray and participate in various experiments. He was involved in mechanics and produced paper, pottery, gunpowder, and other items. His knowledge was exemplified during his life in regards to his superior skill of planning. From childhood, Nat Turner believed he had a specific role to play and became confident that his personal calling regarded the issue of obliterating racial enslavement. Nat Turner states in his confession, " I surely would be a prophet, as the Lord had happened before my birth. And my father and mother strengthened me in this my first impression, saying in my presence, I was intended for some great purpose...(slave narratives 249). He believed he was divinely called upon to liberate slaves out of bondage, and would exemplify his belief by plotting to terminate racial enslavement.
It appeared unlikely in many ways that Nat Turner would lead a massive slave rebellion. He was a unique slave because his masters educated him in the early 1800s. He mostly read the Bible and due to his knowledge, became a Baptist preacher. As a slave, he was devoted to his work, and was sometimes given the responsibility to resolve disputes among slaves. He had a good relationship with whites and Joseph Travis, Nat Turners master, would frequently come to a small congregation where Nat Turner preached to slaves. However, this was all interrupted when he was 28 years old and envisioned "white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and blood flowing in streams ("The Good the Bad and the Mad 153). This vision symbolized a spiritual revelation for Turner, as he believed God selected him to take charge of a holy war to end racial inequality along with the white power structure. Other symbolic signs that Nat Turner believed were related to his calling were peculiar lights gleaming late at night in the woods, and voices in his head. After he envisioned the solar eclipse in 1831, he began to assembly other slaves late at night for his divine cause. Calling himself a prophet, Turner began arranging the compilation of killers who were obligated to "rise up and strike down the hated white serpent(The Good the Bad and the Mad). Clearly, Nat Turner gained significant influence over other slaves due to his education, mysticism, and his role as a minister.
Nat Turners slave revolt became illustrious as additional men joined the insurrection as the revolt proceeded. The attack was headed for Jerusalem, the countyseat, and involved a minimal amount of participants when it started. After signaling out his message of the slave rebellion, there were less than half a dozen of slaves involved. However, after the initiation of the slave revolt and within 24 hours, there were about over seventy slaves. There were some white allies present as contemporary accounts reveal that a few whites led the revolt, but not more than three. Rebellions did not mean that only black slaves were involved. On December 6, 1831, Governor Floyed remarks that the rebellious motive was, "not confined to the slaves(Nat Turners Slave Rebellion 51). The rebellious spirit among the whites consisted of the poorer whites and also existed in North Carolina, stimulated by the Nat Turner slave rebellion.
Although the slaves were determined, this rebellion was not successful because the white responded rapidly and retreated the inadequately armed slaves with its overpowering force after the second day of the rebellion. The slaves had poor arms and lack of ammunition, which resulted to their failure. Other reasons contributing to the failure were that some apparently became drunk, were fatigued, and separated their forces on the way to Jerusalem. It is was written by Mr. R.P. Howison that "within a few miles of the place, (Jerusalem) they were met by a small body of white men, armed with guns generally loaded with bird-shot, and at the first discharge, the cowardly wretches turned and fled to the swamps behind them(Nat Turners Slave Rebellion 54). Factors such as poor ammunition and exhaustion clearly affected the slaves' ability to success during the insurrection.
The result of this slave rebellion lead to several deaths, both towards white and black men. The inspection of the Southampton conspiracy started in late August 1831, with the interrogation of suspects, and terminated with the execution of Nat Turner two and a half months later. The estimates of prisoners who took part of the revolt range around the low fifties and after the revolt, the Gray pamphlet noted that seventeen slaves had been executed. Nat Turner began hiding in August and was finally caught on October 30. Once he attended court, he was sentenced to death and on November 11, 1831, he was executed in Southampton, Virginia. This slave rebellion was significant and memorable because there was an estimate of 55 deaths among the whites, which was the highest number of deaths that occurred during a slave rebellion in the south. Although this slave revolt failed to bring about tangible results, it was significant because the high mortality rates of whites symbolized the whites growing fear and the blacks willingness and determination to end racial enslavement no matter what circumstances.
The Nat Turner rebellion was significant because it led to a series of effects, which contributed to the termination of racial enslavement. Nat Turners slave revolt had a tremendous influence on both the white and African American society. The southern slaveholders began to panic and a reign of terror spread in Virginia. After the Nat Turner Rebellion, it was believed and feared that slaves everywhere became agitated with the white power structure. This reign of terror "momentarily localized in Virginia, spread up to Delaware and down to Florida, across to Louisiana and up again into Kentucky(Nat Turners Slave Rebellion 57). Although the Nat Turner Rebellion was a failure, it was successful in getting a message of the slaves persistent determination to end racial enslavement across and had a major impact on the white slaveowners by establishing a paranoia that was not only confined to Virginia. Due to the panic of the slaveholders "repressive laws were passed, vigilante committees and mobs organized, distinguished theorizers in favor of slavery boldly announced their doctrines...(Nat Turners Slave Rebellion 58). This reign of terror clearly affected the white population as they attempted to seize control of the slaves' aggression.
The southern slaveowners declared more authority and repressive policies over the enslaved by prohibiting gatherings and travel among African Americans. This fear among whites led to violence as they attempted to have significant authority on blacks. For example, there was concern on October 20th when blacks that were imprisoned in Sussex struggled to escape. Attempting to control blacks, these black men suffered severe punishments as one was severely injured, and another was killed. Another example of the mounting violence was exemplified when two black men were shot by an armed group of white men while attempting to runaway. Clearly, the reign of terror among slaveowners established greater violence and severe punishments for blacks due to the whites need for control over the situation. An estimate of 200 innocent blacks were murdered and lynched by white mobs due to the panic caused by the revolt. For the blacks, the result of this slave revolt led to a critical moment where there were to be no more indifference and neutrality; Instead, a new type social organization was formed that shamed the other.
A list of slaves and their sentences when brought to the Court of Southampton
C= Convicted D= Discharged T= Transported A= acquitted O=Other
F=Sent on further Trial
Name Daniel Moses Tom Jack Nathan Tom Curtis Davy Hardy Sentence C O D C and T C C and T O C C and T Name Stephen Hardy Hark Sam Moses Davy Nelson Nat Jack Sentence O C and T O A C and T C O O O Name Sam Dred Arnold Ferry Jim Bob Davy Daniel Thomas Sentence A O D D A O O D C Name Joe Lucy Matt Jim Exum Joe Bury Stephen Jim Sentence C C A O F D F A C and T Name Preston Frank Jack Nelson Sam Archer Isham Nat Isham Sentence A C and T A O C A F C C and T
Due to the statistics shown above, it is clear that more men were brought to the court of Southampton than women were. Between August and November 1831, one woman and forty-four slave men were brought to the Southampton court for insurrection. Therefore, participation of female slaves in the Nat Turner revolt was limited and close to non-existent. Although a federal census in 1830 declares that females represented 46 percent of the slaves in Southampton County, the immense presence of female slaves was not presented in the army of Nat Turner. There is only a record of one female named Lucy who was convicted and put to death by hanging. Lucy, who was around 18 years of age, was the only female who stood at the court of Southampton for conspiracy. Of all who were brought before the court of Southampton, 17 were convicted and executed by hanging, one of them being Lucy.
The dada above exemplifies that most of the blacks that appeared at the Southampton court were convicted, and even transported. Fifty- three blacks were arrested for conspiracy and insurrection. It is recorded that "seventeen of the insurrectionists were convicted, and executed, twelve convicted and transported, ten acquitted, seven discharged and four sent on to the Superior court. Is it apparent that most of the apprehended blacks were killed as a result of the insurrection, followed by being convicted and transported. Of the fifty-three arrested blacks, only a small percentage were acquitted or discharged. Those who were convicted and transported included four boys, demonstrating that age was not taken into consideration.
The data above represents whites murdered by the insurrection according to gender. It also reveals the quantity of children murdered during the insurrection. Fifty-five people were murdered during Nat Turners rebellion, according to Thomas Grays list of names in the Confessions. However, according to other recent estimations, it "appears that more than fifty-five but less than sixty-five whites were killed in Southampton County within the approximately 40 hours that the Revolt raged(Nat Turners slave Rebellion 50). From the data above, it is evident that chiefly women and children were murdered. When adding up all the children, 30 entail to be murdered during Nat Turner's insurrection. The 30 children included numerous young girls such as Mrs. Whitehead's three daughters. During the insurrection, she lost more daughters than sons as the data suggests that her three daughters and one son was murdered. Comparing the men and women, more women were killed at an approximation of 14. The men's estimation in murder was 11. As exposed by these statistics, women and children were not given mercy and were held responsible with white men for racial enslavement and the unequal treatment for slaves.
Clearly, resistance began to emerge in the antebellum south in order to attain liberty. Some enslaved Africans exemplified their resistance by breaking, tools, burning crops, faking illness, escaping plantations, and murdering domestic animals. A more brutal and explosive form of resistance consisted of conspiracies where Africans assaulted whites, such as the Nat Turner rebellion. Motivated by his religious faith, Nat Turner led one of the most momentous slave revolts in the United States in 1831. Although it was not successful, it signified a noteworthy battle to demolish slavery, as it presented the most death rates among slaveowners than any other similar uprising in the United States. This slave revolt demonstrated the whites growing fear as slaves seeked power and were determined to terminate racial enslavement and the systematic process of dehumanization. It symbolized the mounting tension of the slaves, and the lengths slaves were willing take in return for liberty. Plotting a scheme to attack and murder whites was difficult due to loss of determination or being deceived, which resulted in schemes never taking action. However, some African Americans consider Nat Turner a hero because his plot resulted in action and no other slave uprising took such a dramatic turn in the murder of white slaveowners.