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Historical Insights Nat Turner Slave Rebellion

After his capture, Nat Turner, and 55 other slaves were executed on November 11, 1831. Their owners were repaid by the state for the loss of their “property”—around $300 a piece. 1831, Virginia. Credit: Stock Montage/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Nat Turner Slave Rebellion

In the wee hours of August 21, 1831, Nat Turner and a small army of fellow slaves rose up against their owners in the bloodiest slave rebellion in U.S. history.

Nearly three decades before the United States went to war over slavery, a group of African Americans raised their own army to fight against their oppressors. In 1831 Nat Turner mobilized his fellow slaves in Southampton County. On the night of August 21, Turner and his men marched to his master’s house, killing him and his family. Through the night, the rebels moved swiftly from house to house, gaining followers as they went. By daybreak at least 55 whites were dead. State and federal troops gathered to confront Nat Turner and his gang but they quickly scattered to avoid capture. Turner hid in nearby swamps until he was discovered and surrendered peacefully in late October. On November 11, he was hung and skinned, but the spark he’d ignited wasn’t extinguished by his death. Fear of another rebellion haunted slave owners across Virginia and the South. In the aftermath, hundreds of slaves were brutally murdered, falsely accused of having ties to Turner.