Nat Turner was literate, charismatic and highly devout, holding Baptist services for his fellow slaves who dubbed him the ‘Prophet’. Infected by the febrile religiosity, and expectation of the apocalypse, that was sweeping America (both white and black) during the Great Awakening, he began to experience visions. Interpreting a solar eclipse in February 1831 as a sign to overthrow his white oppressors, he managed to recruit about 70 black slaves and freemen to his cause. On 22 August 1831, the rebellion began and, in 48 hours, 60 white men, women and children were killed. An armed militia quickly crushed the rebels, who were armed only with axes and knives, and many of the participants were summarily hanged. Turner went into hiding, but was apprehended by a farmer named Benjamin Phipps, and was hanged – in the hamlet of Jerusalem – on 11 November. Several southern states responded by banning the teaching of reading and writing to African-Americans.
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