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On the night of August 21, 1831, Nat Turner led a small band of fellow slaves into the Southhampton, Virginia, home of Joseph Travis, his owner. The slaves killed Travis and his family, and launched the bloodiest slave revolt in American history. 

Nathaniel Turner was born into slavery on October 2, 1800. Recognizing the boy’s intelligence, Travis allowed him to learn to read and write — skills forbidden too most slaves. 

When he was in his twenties, Turner began to have visions. In one, he saw “white spirits and black spirits engaging in battle”. He knew, he later said, that he had been chosen by God to lead the slaves to freedom. 

Turner himself planned the uprising. On that deadly night in 1831, Turner first killed the Travis family and then headed for Jerusalem, Virginia, enlisting more slaves along the way. During the next two days, violence reigned. 

Some 70 slaves were killed nearly 60 white men, women, and children before the rebellion was stopped. As a result of the revolt, more than 100 slaves, many of them innocent, were shot to death or later tried and hanged. Turner was captured on October 30 and hanged on November 11, 1831. 

As a result of Turner’s rebellion, southern states enacted harsher slave laws. But the revolt strengthened the antislavery movement in the North.

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