On this day in 1831, Nat Turner, leader of one of the largest slave revolts in U.S. history was captured. The rebellion began in August of that year was put down a few days after its inception, but Turner successfully eluded captors until for nearly two months. Over 50 slaves were killed in retaliation by militias and perhaps 200 more in the aftermath of the revolt. A slew of new repressive laws were passed in the slave South as a result.
W.E.B. Du Bois commenting on the Turner rebellion pointed to its economic origins. “The Turner insurrection is so connected with the economic revolution which enthroned cotton that it marks an epoch in the history of the slave. A wave of legislation passed over the South prohibiting the slaves from learning to read and write, forbidding Negroes to preach, and interfering with Negro religious meetings. Virginia declared, in 1831, that neither slaves or free Negroes might preach, nor could they attend religious service at night without permission.”