The Confessions of Nat Turner - by Thomas R. Gray

The Confessions of Nat Turner - by Thomas R. Gray Biographies American History African American History Civil Rights Social Studies Tragedies and Triumphs

On the 21st of August, 1831, Nat Turner led a slave rebellion in Virginia. It was one of the most-effective rebellions, by slaves, during America’s slave-years.

The Library of Congress provides more details about the event:

Nat Turner's Rebellion, the most effective slave revolt, erupted in Southampton County, Virginia, on the night of August 21, 1831. Nat Turner and his followers killed nearly sixty white people as they moved toward an armory at Jerusalem, Virginia.

Halted mere miles from their goal, the approximately seventy-five insurgents were soon killed or captured by the militia. Turner's November execution failed to assuage fears of continued insurrection.

Across the South, renewed legislative efforts to forbid education and greatly restrict movement and assembly further constrained the lives of enslaved people.

Thomas R. Gray talked with Nat Turner after the slave's capture and, according to Gray, wrote-down Turner's autobiographical story.  Gray then published those words, in 1832, as The Confessions of Nat Turner.  This image depicts the cover of Gray's book.

The Library of Congress, where this rare copy is maintained, tells us more about it:

During the 1831 uprising in Southampton, Virginia, led by Nat Turner, who was himself a slave, slave rebels systematically went from house to house killing about sixty whites before they were disbanded. In the suppression of the revolt about one hundred African Americans died and authorities hanged sixteen more.

In these confessions, Turner's lengthy autobiographical statement, he says that God led him to bring judgment against whites because of the institution of slavery. He had a vision in which "white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened—the thunder rolled in the heavens, and blood flowed in streams. . . ."

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5183stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Aug 24, 2019

Media Credits

Image online, courtesy the U.S. Library of Congress.  Rare Book and Special Collections Division.



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