Slavery and the Making of AmericaDrawing of a sermon at the First African Church in Richmond, Virginia
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Photo of actor portraying Nat Turner
Photo of actor portraying Nat Turner
Nat Turner (1800-1831)

Nat Turner, most likely the son of an African-born slave, grew up on a Southside Virginia plantation. From his earliest years, fellow slaves considered Nat a prophet, sent by God for some grand purpose. While still young, he became a religious leader in the slave community, preaching against slavery from a Biblical perspective.

Photo of dramatic re-enactment of men with torches
Men with torches
As a young man, Nat began hearing voices and seeing visions. He understood these as divine messages. In the late 1820s, Nat witnessed several events in the natural world that he interpreted as celestial calls to arms. After an eclipse of the sun in 1831, Nat met with several trusted companions to plan a rebellion. Another solar phenomenon later that year was the last awaited sign. For three days Nat, who was considered to be the savior of his people, led a group of over 40 slaves on a murderous rampage. In the end 60 whites were killed. Nearly as many slaves, Turner among them, were executed for their participation.

Photo of dramatic re-enactment of Nat Turner with torch
Who was Nat Turner?

Photo of dramatic re-enactment of Nat Turner leading slave revolt
"Revolutionary hero? Or fanatical killer? ... Who was Turner? And to whom does his story belong?" These questions have been asked ever since the violent rebellion of 1831. Explore the controversial and often contradictory answers that have been offered over time on the companion website to the PBS film NAT TURNER: A TROUBLESOME PROPERTY.

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