On this day in American history, August 21, 1831 — Nat Turner Leads Enslaved Black People in Virginia Rebellion

Nat Turner was an enslaved black man who lived in Southampton, Virginia. By many accounts, Turner was a very religious man who ministered to fellow enslaved blacks as well as whites. Turner studied the Bible fervently and often claimed to have divine visions. In the late 1820s, Turner claimed to have several visions leading him to believe that God was calling him to lead a rebellion. In February 1831, he witnessed a solar eclipse and interpreted it as a sign to start his campaign. Turner and his followers planned to rebel on July 4, 1831, but postponed the plan. On August 13, 1831, Turner witnessed a second eclipse and believe it to be yet another sign to begin the rebellion.

On August 21, 1831, Turner led his most trusted followers to various plantations, recruiting other blacks, until their ranks swelled to between 60 and 70 fighters armed with muskets and tools. As the rebels moved, they indiscriminately killed white plantation owners, but seemed to spare poor whites. Turner and his followers killed nearly 60 whites before they were confronted and defeated by a militia. Turner’s men were killed or captured immediately, but he escaped and remained at large until October 30, 1831. Upon capture, Turner was criminally convicted and executed along with 30 other blacks convicted of insurrection. In the wake of the rebellion, angry white mobs tortured and murdered hundreds of blacks and Southern legislatures passed laws prohibiting blacks from assembling freely, conducting independent religious services, and gaining an education.


“The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) is proud to present A History of Racial Injustice – 2018 Calendar.  America’s history of racial inequality continues to undermine fair treatment, equal justice, and opportunity for many Americans.  The genocide of Native people, the legacy of slavery and racial terror, and the legally supported abuse of racial minorities are not well understood.  EJI believes that a deeper engagement with our nation’s history of racial injustice is important to addressing present-day questions of social justice and equality.


About William Eric Waters, aka Easy Waters

Award-winning poet, playwright and writer. Author of three books of poetry, "Black Shadows and Through the White Looking Glass: Remembrance of Things Past and Present"; "Sometimes Blue Knights Wear Black Hats"; "The Black Feminine Mystique," and a novel, "Streets of Rage." All four books are available on Amazon.com.
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