"Nat Turner's Southampton Slave Revolt and How it Paved the Way for the Abolitionist and
Civil Rights Movement "
Nat Turner was a man with a vision that would change America forever. His vision may
have not sounded right to the average person but to Nat Turner, he was on Earth to realize his vision.
Nat Turner is the most famous and most controversial slave rebel in American history, and he
remains a storm center of dispute("Fires of Jubilee" author Stephen B. Oates).
Nat Turner's slave revolt may have not been the greatest way to solve the problem of slavery,
but it did open many people's eyes. Slavery was an accepted practice in society but it was not a
humane or kind thing. The cruel and unjust treatment by the slave masters in the 1800's led to Nat
Turner's slave revolt, which in turn led to the abolitionist movement.
Nat Turner was born on October 2, 1800 in the small town of Jerusalem in Southampton,
Virginia. Nat's mother Nancy was one of 400,000 native Africans brought to North America before
1808. While most of the Africans had come from West Africa, Nancy's was supposedly from in the
North's Nile River country("Fires of Jubilee"). Folk chroniclers say that slave traders or warlike
natives abducted Nancy when she was a teenager. She was thrust over to European slave traders
and crammed on a disease infested slave boat headed to the New World("Fires of Jubilee"). Nancy's
ship landed at Norfolk, Virginia around 1795. She then was herded more inland where slave traders
exhibited her at several slave auctions. Around 1799 Nancy was brought by Benjamin Turner and
her life on a plantation began. Not long after Nancy had arrived at the plantation, she married
another slave whose name is unknown("Fires of Jubilee"). Their union produced Nathaniel "Nat"
Turner. In Hebrew this name meant "the gift of God." Nancy did not want to bring her young son
up as a slave so she tried to kill him. The slave owners punished Nancy for trying this and shackled
her for a lengthy period.
As Nancy watched Nat get a little older, she noticed that she had a special child. She was
extremely proud of her young son Nat. Nat was bright, and quick to learn and he stood out from the
rest of the children. In one instance, Nancy overheard a conversation Nat was having with some of
his playmates. He was telling them of a story that had taken place long before he had been born,
yet he told the story like he was there. Nancy asked young Nat "Did anyone tell you this story?" He
replied "No, somehow I just know." Nancy beckoned other slaves to come hear this story, and to
see if Nat were telling it correctly. By and by these other slaves were astonished because he told
the story again and explained it just the way it happened("Fires of Jubilee"). Nat later recalled the
incident and said that only the almighty could have given him such powers of recollection("Fires
Nat's Mother and Father realizing that they had someone special, praised Nat for his
extraordinary brilliance and great imagination. They believed so much that Nat was going to be
something special that, they showed other slaves scars and bumps that were on Nat's chest. In
African tradition it is said that a male with the markings, like Nat's, was destined to become a
leader("Fires of Jubilee"). Nat's parents, his grandmother, and other slaves were all in agreement
that "he was intended for some great purpose, and would surely become a prophet."("Fires of
Another astonishing thing about Nat Turner was his ability to read. Never in his life had he
been taught or educated by someone, yet he knew how. One day while Nat was crying and carrying
on, another slave gave him a book to "play with." Instead Nat sat and proceeded to list the words
in the book...
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