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Nat Turner was the leader of a violent slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831.
Nat Turner - Slave Rebellion (3:35)
William Styron - Confessions (2:09)
In August 1831, one of America's largest slave uprisings strikes fear in the South and prompts some to call for an end to the institution of slavery.
Wiliam Styron is the Pulitzer Prize winning author of "The Confessions of Nat Turner."As a white author wiring about African American issues, Styron faced criticism from both sides. Video courtesy of Open Road Media.
Artist Alison Saar created a memorial statue to Harriet Tubman in Harlem to honor all that she did and the many lives she saved.
Before the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln had always thought that the President had no Constitutional right to attack slavery. On January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, his executive order freeing slaves in 10 states.
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Turner himself fled into the woods.
While Turner hid away, white mobs took their revenge on the blacks of Southampton County. Estimates range from approximately 100 to 200 African Americans were killed after the rebellion. Turner was eventually captured on October 30, 1831. He was represented by lawyer Thomas R. Gray wrote down Turner's confession. Turner pled not guilty during his trail, believing that his rebellion was the work of God. He was sentenced to death by hanging, and this sentence was carried out on November 11, 1831. Many of his co-conspirators meant the same fate as Turner.
The incident put fear in the heart of southerners, ending the organized emancipation movement in that region. Southern states enacted even harsher laws against slaves instead. Turner's actions also added fuel to the abolitionist movement in the north. Noted abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison even published an editorial in his newspaper The Liberator in support of Turner to some degree.
Turner's image has changed and evolved over the years. He has emerged as a hero, a religious fanatic and a villain. Turner became an important icon to the 1960s black power movement as an example of an African American standing up against white oppression. He was also the subject of William Styron's 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Confessions of Nat Turner. But others have objected to Turner's indiscriminate slaughtering of men, women and children to try to achieve this end.
As historian Scot French told The New York Times, "To accept Nat Turner and place him within the pantheon of American revolutionary heroes is to sanction violence as a means of social change. He has a kind of radical consciousness that to this day troubles advocates of a racially reconciled society. The story lives because it's relevant today to questions of how to organize for change."
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