Nat Turner’s Revolt and Its Effects

Lesson 1: Introduction: Events of the Rebellion

Time Estimated: 1 days



Students will:

  1. Predict how slaves might respond to slavery.
  2. Analyze a woodcut image by Samuel Warner to determine the point of view and message that it portrays.
  3. Explain what took place during Turner’s revolt and why Turner led his revolt by examining Turner’s Confessions.
  4. Determine Thomas Gray’s point of view by examining Turner’s Confessions.







  1. Students predict to a partner, and then share predictions with the class about how slaves will respond to slavery. What choices do the slaves have? Which choices will they most likely pick and why?
  2. Review Virginia timeline posted. Review/discuss events of the time period. What direction do we seem to be heading toward? (Students should point out tensions between North and South over a variety of issues—including slavery).
  3. Introduce Nat Turner—provide a brief character sketch. Inform students that he chose to respond to slavery by leading a revolt.
  4. Teacher passes out Samuel Warner’s woodcut and guiding questions worksheet—explains questions and models how to analyze the image.
  5. Students analyze Samuel Warner’s woodcut “Horrid Massacre in Virginia” with a partner by working through the Guiding Questions worksheet.
  6. After students have completed the first few questions that deal purely with observation, the class will share their answers. Teacher will then model a “think aloud” for the students on how to use these observations to draw conclusions about the maker’s perspective and the message being portrayed. For example: “We said that this woodcut shows a white man and woman on their knees being threatened by black men standing over them with weapons. This makes me feel sorry for the white people. How do you feel about the men with the weapons?” etc.
  7. After modeling how to analyze the woodcut, students continue to work with partners to answer the remaining questions.
  8. Class shares and discusses their answers to the questions concerning the image. Most importantly—what message about the revolt does this image portray? What is the artist’s point of view?
  9. Teacher has students predict if the revolt was successful—what do they think happened to Turner?
  10. Teacher explains that Turner was captured and provides the context within which the Confessions were given—in a jail. The teacher also will briefly discuss who Gray was.
  11. Class reads together selections from The Confessions of Nat Turner. Students are to listen for and highlight parts that relate to the following questions:
    • What occurred during the rebellion?
    • Why did Turner lead this rebellion?
    • What does Gray think of Turner?
    (Teacher will help with difficult vocabulary as the passage is read and will guide students as to what parts to highlight.)
  12. As students and teacher are reading the selection, teacher will periodically stop to question the students on what was just read. “What do Turner’s words mean? How does he feel about his revolt?” Think aloud changing some of Turner’s words and Gray’s questions into easier and more familiar language. Periodically prompt students to do the same. Students will write their re-wordings of Turner’s Confessions over Turner’s own words in the source.
  13. Teacher reads through guiding questions with the class. Students work with partner to answer the guiding questions provided by the teacher. (The teacher will instruct them to go back and look at the highlighted sections as well as their re-wordings to help them answer the questions.)
  14. Class shares responses to questions.
  15. Students tell partner in their own words what happened during Turner’s rebellion, why he led it, and his perspective on the rebellion.




Students will be paired up heterogeneously, so that those who are of a lower ability level will have a stronger partner to aid them in analyzing the woodcut and The Confessions. Also, I will provide my lower students with shorter selections from Turner’s Confessions and their copies will have hard vocabulary defined in parenthesis after the word. More guidance will be provided to these students in highlighting as well. I will also have them cross out parts that are not as important so as to eliminate the amount of text to look over when answering the questions.