Turner, Nat (1800–1831), the leader of a bloody slave uprising that took place in Virginia in 1831. The Southampton, or Turner, Insurrection so terrified the South that antislavery sentiment there was all but extinguished and stricter slave codes were enacted.
Turner was born a slave in Southampton, Virginia. He was educated by one of his masters, Samuel Turner, and was generally better treated than most other slaves. Allowed some measure of self-respect, he became bitter and frustrated over his condition as a slave. He turned to religion and became a fanatic, convinced that he was an instrument of the Lord sent to liberate his fellow slaves.
On the night of August 21, 1831, Turner began his revolt. He led a band of followers, eventually numbering 60 or 70 slaves, on a murderous two-day rampage. At least 55 white people were slain before the rebellion was put down by militia. In the reprisals that followed, more than 200 blacks were killed. Turner was eventually captured, tried, and hanged.
The Confessions of Nat Turner , a 20-page autobiographical pamphlet dictated while he was in jail, was published a year after his death. It was the source for a historical novel with the same title by William Styron (1967).