MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Nat Turner's Rebellion: Background information when reading American Histories

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

American Histories

by John E. Wideman

American Histories by John E. Wideman X
American Histories by John E. Wideman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 240 pages
    Mar 2019, 192 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
Buy This Book

About this Book

Nat Turner's Rebellion

This article relates to American Histories

Print Review

One of Wideman's most vivid stories is centered around the confession of Nat Turner, an enslaved Virginia man who organized a revolt in 1831, involving upwards of 50 other slaves. The rebels killed 51 people (mostly slave owners and their families). The rebellion began in the late hours of August 21 when Turner and his fellow slaves murdered their master, Benjamin Travis and his family. They then fanned out across the countryside, killing any white people they encountered. They marched to Jerusalem, Virginia where they hoped to take control of an armory, but the authorities had by then gotten word of the rebellion and it was quickly stanched. Turner and 16 of his co-conspirators hid out for roughly six weeks, intermittently clashing with local militias, before being captured on October 30. Turner and 56 of his co-conspirators were found guilty of "conspiring to rebel and make insurrection" on November 5, 1831 and executed on November 11.

Depiction of Nat Turner Rebellion Turner was a deeply religious man and believed that God had spoken to him as he had to the prophets in the Bible. Turner believed he was "ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty," and that he had seen a vision of "whites and blacks engaged in battle." The rebellion was largely a result of his interpretation of God's message – that he should "fight against the Serpent." Turner also took the 1831 solar eclipse as a cosmic sign that the time to revolt had come.

Wideman takes Turner's real-life confession to his defense attorney Thomas Gray as the springboard for his story. Gray published Turner's confessions as a book titled The Confessions of Nat Turner: The Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Virginia. Despite being Turner's attorney, Gray made no effort to portray his client in a positive light by toning down the violence in his account and scholars have questioned the veracity of the published version.

In the South, the response to the rebellion was swift and harsh. Roving bands of white vigilantes perpetrated acts of violence against slaves who had nothing to do with Turner, and state legislatures enacted harsher laws intended to outlaw the education of and restrict the movements of slaves, making further rebellion more difficult. There were numerous slave uprisings in the decades leading up to the Civil War, including the Louisiana Revolt and the raid on Harper's Ferry, but Turner's revolt was one of the most dramatic and largest in scale, both in terms of number of participants and fatalities.

19th Century woodcut depiction of the Nat Turner Rebellion from U.S. Library of Congress

Filed under People, Eras & Events

Article by Lisa Butts

This "beyond the book article" relates to American Histories. It originally ran in April 2018 and has been updated for the March 2019 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Last Train to Key West
    The Last Train to Key West
    by Chanel Cleeton
    The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton received very positive comments from our First ...
  • Book Jacket: Tokyo Ueno Station
    Tokyo Ueno Station
    by Yu Miri
    Kazu is a ghost, seemingly condemned to haunt one of Japan's busiest train stations, the grounds of ...
  • Book Jacket
    Delayed Rays of a Star
    by Amanda Lee Koe
    Amanda Lee Koe's Delayed Rays of a Star begins with a late-1920s photo of three women at a party in ...
  • Book Jacket: Sleepovers
    by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips
    In Ashleigh Bryant Phillips' debut story collection, Sleepovers, it can be difficult to keep tabs on...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Voyage of the Morning Light
    by Marina Endicott

    A sweeping novel set aboard a merchant ship sailing through the South Pacific in 1912.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Beekeeper of Aleppo
by Christy Lefteri

This moving, intimate, and beautifully written novel puts human faces on the Syrian war.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Wedding Thief

The Wedding Thief
by Mary Simses

Funny, soulful, and as sweet as buttercream, The Wedding Thief is the perfect summer read.



Solve this clue:

A S Louder T W

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.