Nat Turner, the man who led the 1831 slave uprising, was bom to an African bom slave of such self-determi¬ nation that she felt she could not bear to bring another slave into the world. It was said that she had to be held away from hurting him.
Along with her hate for slavery, Turner’s mother also passed on a respect for religion and ritual. From childhood, Nathaniel Turner was a deeply religious person who felt he was chosen by God for a special purpose.
Dedicated to prayer and the visions and voices that stirred him, Nat grew into a powerful community leader, and a commanding, learned man. In the ser¬ vice of a religious life, Turner denied himself all vice and stayed apart from society. Eventually, a mixture of awe and curiosity led people to call him “the Prophet.”
In 1831, the Prophet received a vision. He is said to have heard a voice that told him to “arise and prepare myself and slay my enemies with their own weapons.” After years of faithfully preaching to his commu¬ nity, Nat Turner gathered four men around him and began to plan the rebellion that stands as one of the most meaningful events on the road to the abolition of slavery.
At the appearance of the promised sign, the solar eclipse of February, 1831, Nat Turner and his men gathered to plot their rebellion. Through interruptions and post¬ ponements, it was stifled until the appear¬ ance of the second sign: a bluish haze over the sun in August of 1831. At that time, they decided they could wait no longer.
By God’s sign they entered the house of Turn¬ er’s master and murdered him and his fam¬ ily. This was the first act of a rebellion that would kill 57 whites in 24 hours and attract 70 rebels who terrified the entire white pop¬ ulation for months after.
On their way to Jerusalem, Virginia, Turner met his first opposition. Nat’s men were defeated and scattered, and Nat went into hiding for two months, eluding capture and intensifying a terror that rolled into hys¬ teria over the eastern and southern states.
While Nat Turner hid, whites gathered in heavily armed groups, and attacked armed, unarmed and innocent African-American families. Nat Turner was finally caught and brought to trial, where he pleaded “not guilty” and was sentenced to death.
He pre¬ dicted the sun would not shine on the day of his execution, and a surprising thunder¬ storm rose up and swept across the sun as Turner hung from a rope in Jerusalem, Vir¬ ginia.
Though the bloodshed was massive, Nat Turner managed to give a reality to the pas¬ sion of black Americans who were fighting to abolish slavery in America. Nat Turner was an example of resistance and a sign to white America that freedom was impera¬ tive and would come for them one way or another.