In 1831, Nat Turner led a slave revolt in Southampton County, Virgina, killing 60 white people. The retribution that followed resulted in the arrests and execution of a number of slaves and free blacks.
The Confessions of Nat Turner, Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, VA.
As fully and voluntarily made to Thomas R. Gray, in the prison where he was confined, and acknowledged by him to be such when read before the Court of Southampton; with the certificate, under seal of the Court convened at Jerusalem, Nov. 5, 1831, for hi tria.
ALSO, AN AUTHENTIC ACCOUNT OF THE WHOLE INSURRECTION WITH LISTS OF THE WHITES WHO WERE MURDERED, AND OF THE NEGROES BROUGHT BEFORE THE COURT OF SOUTHAMPTON, AND THERE SENTENCED,&c.
[Editorial note: Gray's editorial comments in italics. The paragraphs in the original are very large. For ease of reading we have grouped the text into shorter units, however they are numbered continuously to show the original paragraphing.]
[Introduction] Agreeable to his own appointment, on the evening he was committed to prison, with permission of the jailer, I visited NAT on Tuesday the 1st November, when, without being questioned at all, he commenced his narrative in the following words:
[1.1] SIR, --YOU have asked me to give a history of the motives which induced me to undertake the late insurrection, as you call it-- [1.2] To do so I must go back to the days of my infancy, and even before I was born.
[1.3] I was thirty-one years of age the 2nd of October last, and born the property of Benj. Turner, of this county. [1.4] In my childhood a circumstance occurred which made an indelible impression on my mind, and laid the ground work of that enthusiasm, which has terminated so fatally to many, both white and black, and for which I am about to atone at the gallows. [1.5 It is here necessary to relate this circumstance--trifling as it may seem, it was the commencement of that belief which has grown with time, and even now, sir, in this dungeon, helpless and forsaken as I am, I cannot divest myself of.
[1.6] Being at play with other children, when three or four years old, I was telling them something, which my mother overhearing, said it had happened before I was born. [1.7] I stuck to my story, however, and related something which went, in her opinion, to confirm it--others being called on were greatly astonished, knowing that these things had happened, and caused them to say in my hearing, I surely would be a prophet, as the Lord had shewn me things that had happened before my birth. [1.8] And my father and mother strengthened me in this my first impression, saying in my presence, I was intended for some great purpose, which they had always thought from certain marks on my head and breast--(a parcel of excrescences which I believe are not at all uncommon, particularly among Negroes, as I have seen several with the same. [1.9] In this case he has either cut them off or they have nearly disappeared).
[1.10] My grand mother, who was very religious, and to whom I was much attached--my master, who belonged to the church, and other religious persons who visited the house,
- ↑ Turner, Nat. The Confessions of Nat Turner. Ed. by Thomas R. Gray. Baltimore, Thomas R. Gray, 1831.