Nat Turner Rebellion
Slave revolts did occur within the system, but few were successful. The slave revolt that most terrified white slaveholders, and I witnessed firsthand on my travels, was that led by the black American slave Nat Turner in Southampton County, Virginia, in August 1831. It was the only effective, sustained rebellion in U.S. history and, from my observations, spread terror throughout the white South. Nat, the son of slaves, was the property of Benjamin Turner, a prosperous plantation owner. He grew up with a deep hatred of slavery gradually began to believe that God had chosen him to lead his people out of slavery.
Turner killed his owner and his family, hoping his action would cause a massive uprising but only 75 joined his rebellion. Turner’s group murdered about 60 whites before armed resistance from local whites and state militia forces overwhelmed them. In retaliation, more than a hundred innocent slaves were killed. Supporters of slavery pointed to Turner’s rebellion as evidence that blacks were inherently inferior barbarians requiring an institution such as slavery to discipline them, and fears of similar insurrections led many southern states to further strengthen their oppressive slave codes in order to limit the education, movement and assembly of slaves.