This Day in the Law
October 30

Nat Turner Arrested for Rebellion (1831)

On October 30, 1831, Nat Turner was arrested for leading one of the largest slave rebellions in U.S. history where approximately 55 white people were killed in August 1831.

Nat Turner grew up in a deeply religious family and learned how to read and write at a young age. He also lived his entire life as a slave in Southampton County, Virginia. As Turner grew into his 20s, he began to tell others he had visions from God and often conducted Baptist services to fellow slaves. Turner began to recruit and grow a base of followers who were both slaves and free blacks.

In the middle of August 1831, Turner and about 70 others began a rebellion against southern white slave owners. They traveled from house to house and attacked all white people they saw, including women and children, with weapons such as hatchets, knives, and axes. Within two days, Turner and his other followers had brutally killed around 55 whites. Nat Turner’s Rebellion – as it was commonly called – quickly made national news and was repressed by state militias. However, Turner eluded authorities for about two and half months.

On this day, October 30, 1831, Turner was found hiding in a cave by a white farmer and arrested. Less than one week later, a trial was conducted against Turner and he was convicted and sentenced to death. On November 11th Turner was hanged in Jerusalem, Virginia.

In retaliation against Nat Turner’s Rebellion, white southern mobs attacked black people killing around 200. Southern state legislatures also enacted new laws to prevent people from teaching blacks to read, write, hold religious functions, and other restrictive laws in an effort to prevent future slave rebellions.

Overall, Nat Turner’s Rebellion created another racial divide between whites and blacks in the South. Events like Turner’s Rebellion eventually led to the Civil War.