Nat Turner was born October 2, 1800 in Southampton County, Virginia. He was born on the farm of Benjamin Turner. According to legend, his mother tried to kill him as soon as he was born to spare him a life of slavery, but she was tied to her bed until she calmed down.
It has been said that Nat's mother was an African queen from the kingdoms of the upper Nile, and that she was forced to march for one thousand miles to the Atlantic. We do know it is true that she was taken from Africa while in her teens and was renamed Nancy. Not much is known about his father, except that he was a second-generation slave.
His mother and grandmother taught him about his African heritage. While he was young, a traditional African search of his bodily bumps and marks proved that he would be a prophet.
Nat learned to read and write when he was a child. It was illegal in Virginia to teach a slave to read, out of fear that they would read abolitionist writings and begin revolts, but somehow he learned. He himself said that the alphabet "came to him" in a vision, finding the letters burned into leaves on the ground. Maybe some old slaves taught him. Most likely, his master's family taught him. Nevertheless, when Benjamin found out about his reading, he encouraged it-as long as it was only the Bible.
His grandmother, Bridget, had become a Christian and passed on the religion to Nat, which gave him all the more reason to read the Bible. He liked to read the Old Testament because he didn't like what the New Testament was about (forgiveness, but the whites didn't show that). Once he became a Christian, religion and freedom were in his mind.
He was in the fields one day when he apparently heard a voice telling him to seek the Kingdom of Heaven, which he interpreted as the end of slavery. He believed his whole life that it was his destiny to lead all of his fellow slaves to freedom, and for most of his life, he planned his revolt.
Upon Benjamin Turner's death, Benjamin's son, Samuel, inherited Nat. Virginia fell into a depression around that time, and Samuel hired an overseer to push the slaves harder. Nat ran away. For two weeks, he was hunted by dogs and people, but was not found. He showed up at the plantation a month later, claiming that the Spirit told him that he was selfish. Samuel was shocked, and gave him a lighter workload. It also caused Nat to see that his destiny was one of freedom of his people, not just himself.
He married soon after, in 1821, to a slave named Cherry. Just after their second child was born, in 1822, Samuel Turner died, with no inheritance. All of the Turner property, lamps, tables, chairs, tools, livestock and slaves, were priced and sold. Nat was given a top price of $400. Cherry was valued at $40. The slaves were sold like chickens and hogs. Cherry and his children were sold to Giles Reese, while Nat was sold to Thomas Moore. Incredibly, the two were neighbors. They were also fortunate not to be sold to turpentine or hemp farms,...