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25 Nat Turner Quotes About the Slave Rebellion Leader

Nia Simone McLeod

Nat Turner was an enslaved African preacher who led one of the bloodiest slave rebellions in American history. Our Nat Turner quotes document his life and legacy. 

What have you learned about Nat Turner? 

After learning how to read and write, Nat Turner began to preach the Bible to other slaves. In 1831, Nat Turner began a revolt against white owners.

Nat Turner Picture

Approximately 55 white men, women, and children were killed during the rebellion. After months on the run, Turner was captured and sentenced to death by hanging. 

The Pulitzer Prize-winning fictional novel The Confessions of Nat Turner, written by Willian Styron, spread Nat Turner’s story to the general public. In 2016, a historical drama was released entitled The Birth of a Nation, based on the story of Nat Turner. 

Learn more about Nat Turner through the quotes below. 

Don’t forget to also check out these Jane Elliot quotes about activism and racial equality.

Powerful Nat Turner quotes

1. “To a mind like mine, restless, inquisitive, and observant of everything that was passing, it is easy to suppose that religion was the subject to which it would be directed; and, although this subject principally occupied my thoughts, there was nothing that I saw or heard of to which my attention was not directed.” – Nat Turner

2. “Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.” – Nat Turner

3. “I was struck with that particular passage which says: “Seek ye the kingdom of Heaven and all things shall be added unto you.” – Nat Turner

4. “Having soon discovered to be great, I must appear so, and therefore studiously avoided mixing in society, and wrapped myself in mystery, devoting my time to fasting and prayer.” – Nat Turner

5. “All my time not devoted to my master’s service was spent either in prayer, or in making experiments in casting different things in moulds made of earth, in attempting to make paper, gunpowder, and many other experiments, that, although I could not perfect, yet convinced me of its practicability if I had the means.” – Nat Turner

6. “My grandmother, who was very religious, and to whom I was much attached — my master, who belonged to the church, and other religious persons who visited the house, and whom I often saw at prayers, noticing the singularity of my manners, I suppose, and my uncommon intelligence for a child, remarked I had too much sense to be raised – and if I was, I would never be of any service to any one – as a slave.” – Nat Turner

7. “I had a vision – and I saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened – the thunder rolled in the Heavens, and blood flowed in streams – and I heard a voice saying, ‘Such is your luck, such are you called to see, and let it come rough or smooth, you must surely bear it.’” – Nat Turner

8. “I heard a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first.” – Nat Turner

Nat Turner quotes about upbringing and life

9. “When I got large enough to go to work, while employed I was reflecting on many things that would present themselves to my imagination; and whenever an opportunity occurred of looking at a book, when the school-children were getting their lessons, I would find many things that the fertility of my own imagination had depicted to me before.” – Nat Turner

10. “After having supplied myself with provisions from Mr. Travis’s, I scratched a hole under a pile of fence rails in a field, where I concealed myself for six weeks, never leaving my hiding place but for a few minutes in the dead of night to get water, which was very near.” – Nat Turner

11. “And my father and mother strengthened me in this my first impression, saying in my presence, I was intended for some great purpose, which they had always thought from certain marks on my head and breast.” – Nat Turner

12. “I was not addicted to stealing in my youth, nor have ever been; yet such was the confidence of the Negroes in the neighborhood, even at this early period of my life, in my superior judgment, that they would often carry me with them when they were going on any roguery, to plan for them.” – Nat Turner

13. “The manner in which I learned to read and write, not only had great influence on my own mind, as I acquired it with the most perfect ease, so much so, that I have no recollection whatever of learning the alphabet” – Nat Turner

Nat Turner quotes from The Confessions of Nat Turner

14. “It is evil to keep these people in bondage, yet they cannot be freed. They must be educated! To free these people without education and with the prejudice that presently exists against them would be a ghastly crime.” ― William Styron

15. “The most futile thing a man can do is to ponder the alternatives, to stew and fret over the life that might have been lived if circumstances had not pointed his future in a certain direction.” ― William Styron

16. “That I chose Independence Day as the moment to strike was of course a piece of deliberate irony.” ― William Styron

17. “Doctor, I will be as direct with you as I can. I have long and do still steadfastly believe that slavery is the great cause of all the chief evils of our land. It is a cancer eating at our bowels, the source of all our misery, individual, political, and economic.” ― William Styron

18. “I could scarcely remember a time when I was not haunted by the idea of slavery, or was not profoundly conscious of the strange bifurcated world of whiteness and blackness in which I was born and reared.” ― William Styron

19. “Though it is a painful fact that most Negroes are hopelessly docile, many of them are filled with fury, and the unctuous coating of flattery which surrounds and encases that fury is but a form of self-preservation.” ― William Styron

20. “And I think it was a great Frenchman, Voltaire, who said that the beginning of wisdom is the moment when one understands how little concerned with one’s own life are other men, they who are so desperately preoccupied with their own. I knew nothing about you and that boy, nothing at all.” ― William Styron

21. “Why, I think, as you say, to wit, that they are bad times, and bad they will be, until men are better; for they are bad men that make bad times; if men, therefore, would mend, so would the times. It is a folly to look for good days so long as sin is so high, and those that study its nourishment so many.” ― William Styron

Nat Turner quotes about Nat Turner

22. “What strikes us as the most remarkable thing in this matter is the horrible ferocity of these monsters.” – The Richmond Enquirer (about Nat Turner’s rebellion)

23. “A fanatic preacher by the name of Nat Turner (Gen. Nat Turner) who had been taught to read and write, and permitted to go about preaching in the country, was at the bottom of this infernal brigandage. He was artful, impudent and vindicative, after having witnessed the atrocities committed against slaves and himself.” – The Richmond Enquirer (about Nat Turner’s rebellion)

24. “Although they confiscated horses, weapons, and brandy, they took only what was necessary to continue the struggle, and they committed no rapes. They even spared a few homesteads, one because Turner believed the poor white inhabitants “thought no better of themselves than they did of negroes.” – Stephen B. Oates

25. “You rally would have to be as crazy and schizophrenic as Nat Turner to not be affected; you’d have to have voices in your head louder than those around you to convince you that a slave rebellion was the right, sane response.” – Mark Ames

You might also like these John Brown quotes about freedom, vision and slavery.

How well do you know your history? 

As a Black woman, it’s difficult to read about the trauma that Black people have experienced throughout history. This becomes even more saddening when it pertains to slavery.

But it’s important to know as much history as you can about your people. The horrors of slavery have wiped out the history of my nationality, so I try to piece together bits and pieces in order to make some semblance of an identity. 

I invite you to do your own research about your history and the people that have come before you. It can answer lingering questions and help you feel a little less alone in the big, wide world.  

Which of these Nat Turner quotes and sayings resonated with you the most? Let us know in the comment section below.

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