During the antebellum South, Nat Turner (Nate Parker), a literate slave, experiences discrimination from the time he's a small child. Still a slave, he grows up to be a preacher, but is coerced by his owner, Samuel Turner (Armie Hammer), to use his preaching to subdue unruly slaves. At first Nat complies and preaches to the slaves to submit themselves to their masters, whether or not their masters are kind or harsh towards them.
But as he witnesses more and more senseless acts of physical abuse against his fellow slaves, and is whipped almost to death for showing kindness to a small white child, Nat realizes something has to change. He orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom, and for good to rise against evil.