PROCLAMATION CONCERNING NAT TURNER BY GOVERNOR FLOYD, SEPTEMBER 17, 1831
On August 23, 1831, Governor John Floyd received a note from the Southampton County postmaster stating “that an insurrection of the slaves in that county had taken place, that several families had been massacred and that it would take a considerable military force to put them down.” At least fifty-five white people, many of them women and children, died before a massive force of militiamen and armed volunteers converged on the region and put down the insurrection. Angry white vigilantes killed dozens of slaves and drove hundreds of free persons of color into exile in the reign of terror that followed.
Early newspaper reports identified the Southampton insurgents as a leaderless mob of runaway slaves that rose out of the Dismal Swamp to wreak havoc on unsuspecting white families. Military leaders and others on the scene soon confirmed that the rebels were not runaways but slaves from local plantations. Reports of as many as 450 participants gave way to revised estimates of perhaps 60 armed men and boys, many of them coerced into joining. The confessions of prisoners and the interrogation of eyewitnesses pointed to a small group of ringleaders, one of which was an enslaved preacher by the name of Nat Turner. Attention focused on Turner; it was his “imagined spirit of prophecy” and his extraordinary powers of persuasion, local authorities reported, that had turned obedient slaves into bloodthirsty killers. Turner’s ability to elude capture for more than two months only enhanced his mythic stature.
While Turner remained at large, rumors of a wider slave conspiracy flourished. An abolitionist writer named Samuel Warner suggested that Turner had hidden himself in the Dismal Swamp with an army of runaways at his disposal. State officials took pains to ensure that Turner lived to stand trial by offering a $500 reward for his capture and delivery to jail. On October 30, 1831, Turner surrendered to a local farmer who found him hiding in a cave. Local planter and lawyer Thomas R. Gray interviewed Turner in his jail cell, recorded his “Confessions,” and published them as a pamphlet shortly after Turner was tried, convicted, and executed. Turner insisted that God had given him a sign to act, that he had shared his plans with only a few trusted followers, and that he knew nothing of any wider conspiracy extending beyond the Southampton County area. Certified as authentic by six local magistrates and said to be authorized by Turner himself, the “Confessions” became the definitive but controversial source for nearly all subsequent accounts of the event.
Turner’s revolt prompted a prolonged debate in the Virginia General Assembly. While many statesmen adhered to the Jeffersonian idea that the ending of slavery was desirable, no coherent plan for eventual abolition emerged. In fact, Virginia’s sponsorship of colonization to Africa, a popular solution to the problem, in reality became simply a way to remove free blacks, who were thought to be a bad influence on slaves. Instead of advocating freedom for slaves, some prominent Virginians developed a positive argument for slavery’s good based on their readings of the Bible and classical history. As a result of Turner’s actions, Virginia’s legislators enacted more laws to limit the activities of African Americans, both free and enslaved. The freedom of slaves to communicate and congregate was directly attacked. No one could assemble a group of African Americans to teach reading or writing, nor could anyone be paid to teach a slave. Preaching by slaves and free blacks was forbidden.
#NatTurnersRebellion Virginia State Route 658 I.e. BlackHead Signpost Road named after Virginian blacks Beheaded by U.S. Militias 200 blacks Killed…
What’s not talked about is the innocent Civilians killed by U.S. Navy and The Savage White Militias of Virginia and North Carolina who killed Blacks who had nothing to do with Nat turners Rebellion Some Were Beheaded and heads put on poles for savage recognition of killing blacks this how the Road Virginia State Route 658 the BlackHead SignPost Rd in Virginia Got its Name …
Within a day of the suppression of the rebellion, the local militia and three companies of artillery were joined by detachments of men from the USS Natchez and USS Warren, which were anchored in Norfolk, and militias from counties in Virginia and North Carolina surrounding Southampton. The state executed 56 blacks and militias killed at least 100 blacks. An estimated 200 blacks were killed, most of whom were not involved with the rebellion.
Rumors quickly spread among whites that the slave revolt was not limited to Southampton, and that it had spread as far south as Alabama. Fears led to reports in North Carolina that “armies” of slaves were seen on highways, had burned and massacred the white inhabitants of Wilmington, a black-majority city; and were marching on the state capital. Such fear and alarm led to whites’ attacking blacks across the South with flimsy cause–the editor of the Richmond Whig, writing “with pain,” described the scene as “the slaughter of many blacks without trial and under circumstances of great barbarity.” Two weeks after the rebellion had been suppressed, the white violence against the blacks continued. General Eppes ordered troops and white citizens to stop the killing …
A company of militia from Hertford County, North Carolina reportedly killed 40 blacks in one day and took $23 and a gold watch from the dead. Captain Solon Borland, who led a contingent from Murfreesboro, North Carolina, condemned the acts “because it was tantamount to theft from the white owners of the slaves.
Blacks suspected of participating in the rebellion were beheaded by the militia. “Their severed heads were mounted on poles at crossroads as a grisly form of intimidation.” A section of Virginia State Route 658 remains labeled as “Blackhead Signpost Road” in reference to these events.
The Governor had called about three thousand militiamen to put down the rebellion. Seeing that they were greatly outnumbered, the insurgents disbanded, and many fled into the woods and swamps.
The white militia hunted down and soon captured or killed the men who had participated in the rebellion, except for Nat Turner. For two months Turner hid in the woods of Southampton County. When he was finally captured, he was tried, convicted, and then hanged and his body skinned. Fifty-four other men were executed by the state. In addition, to terrorize the local African American population, some of the militia decapitated about fifteen of the captured insurgents and put their heads on stakes. Then, as fear spread through the white population, white mobs turned on blacks who had played no role in the uprising. An estimated two to three hundred African Americans, most of whom were not connected to the rebellion, were murdered by white mobs. The governor of Virginia tried to put a stop to this vigilante justice, insisting that those who had participated in the rebellion should be tried and executed by the state to reinforce the supremacy of the law for both blacks and whites. In the aftermath of the rebellion, the state legislature of Virginia considered abolishing slavery, but instead voted to tighten the laws restricting blacks’ freedom in hopes of preventing any further insurrection.
In nearby North Carolina, several slaves were accused — falsely — of being involved in Turner’s rebellion and executed. Rumors spread that slaves in North Carolina were plotting their own uprising, and white mobs murdered a number of enslaved men, while other slaves were arrested, tried, and a few executed. North Carolina, like Virginia, passed new legislation further restricting the rights of both enslaved people and free blacks. The legislature made it illegal for slaves to preach, to be “insolent” to white people, to carry a gun, to hunt in the woods, to cohabitate with a free black or white person, to own any type of livestock. These new codes also forbade white people from teaching an enslaved person to read.
Haki Kweli Shakur 8-22-51ADM 16
August Third Collective/Communist Org NAPLA NAIM NSP