Here's another way to celebrate July Fourth -- by reading about Nat Turner's rebellion. Today a new website on the Nat Turner rebellion has gone live -- you may recall that Turner first planned his rebellion for July Fourth, 1831. The website is terrific -- it has a ton of information on Turner's rebels, the community, maps, and the aftermath. Faculty lounge readers may be particularly interested in the material on the trials and the petitions to the legislature to ask for compensation for slaves who were killed during the rebellion.
I find two petitions of particular interest. First is one that asks for the entire community to bear the loss rather than an individual slaveowner -- and it cites legislation as far back as 1691. Talk about applied legal history. Another one is for the slave Alfred, who was executed during the rebellion by a militia company from Greensville. I think it's Alfred whose severed head gave rise to the road "Blackhead Signpost Road." What interests me about that petition is how much it conveys the brutality of the suppression of the rebellion.
Anyway, the website is a great resource for primary sources. It was put together by Sarah N. Roth of Widener University's history department. You may recall that I wrote some about her book Gender and Race in Antebellum Popular Culture last fall. And if you're interested in the trials and the lawyers involved, I have an article on them.
The image is the Sussex County Courthouse, the county just west of Southampton. About a dozen suspected rebels were tried there. And its Confederate monument is worth some attention -- because it has a starker than usual defense of the War and because it incorporates by reference material in the county clerk's office. I thought about using the Southampton County Courthouse, but that was built shortly after the rebellion trials.
As I say, check out natturnerproject.org!