Nat Turner’s Slave Revolt Was 1 of 313 in the U.S. Between 1526-1865
The Sundance success of Nate Parker‘s Nat Turner-inspired Birth of A Nation has been eyeopening for people who have never heard of Turner or any slave revolt in North America. The lack of recognition given to these epic moments in history is the root of the myth that America’s enslaved peoples “did not fight back,” compared to those in the Caribbean.
Turner’s 1831 rebellion in Southampton, Virginia resulted in 55-65 white deaths, 100-200 black deaths, and his hanging. But contrary to what many have been misled to believe, it was just one of 313 slave insurrections in the U.S. between 1526 and the end of the Civil War in 1865.
While most revolts were led by enslaved Africans, quite a few were led by and/or included enslaved Natives, as well as free blacks, whites, and Native allies.
The largest uprising in U.S. history was led by John Horse and the Black Seminoles from 1835 to 1838 in Spanish Florida, then the largest runaway haven in the Southern U.S. The struggle with the U.S. military led to the only emancipation of enslaved rebels secured prior to the Civil War (though later rescinded) and the largest mass exodus of formerly enslaved persons across the United States, ultimately to Mexico. Learn more from the clip below.
About a century before the Black Seminole revolt, there was the 1739 Stono Rebellion in the colony of South Carolina. As the largest slave uprising in the British mainland colonies, it led to the Negro Act of 1740, which restricted assembly, education, and movement of enslaved persons. Watch more on this history in a clip from Slavery and the Making of America below.
For a notable film project about Turner, check out Charles Burnett‘s 2003 documentary, Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (free for Amazon Prime members), which aired on PBS in 2004. Turner’s rebellion is also covered in the network’s series, The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross (free for Amazon Prime members).
More information on various slave insurrections in the U.S. can be found at slaverebellion.org. Also check out the reading recommendations below.