In August of 1831, seven enslaved men turned the South and the nation upside down when they engaged in a violent and historic bid to gain their freedom. Beginning before dawn on a Monday morning, a band of slaves led by Nat Turner made their way across Southampton County in southeastern Virginia. As they traveled from farm to farm, they killed every white person they encountered and picked up recruits from among the slave population. Within twenty-four hours, fifty-five white men, women, and children lay dead.
By Monday afternoon, whites launched a successful attack against the rebels, capturing or killing most of them that same day. Nat Turner remained at large, and rumors spread that the rebellion had been part of a much more widespread conspiracy of slaves in Virginia and North Carolina. Over the next four months, dozens of slaves were put on trial, and more than twenty were executed, including Turner, who was captured after hiding in the area under a pile of wood for more than two months.