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June 13, 2013


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Brian Clarke

So far, I am stumped. However, I have called in some reinforcements and asked my family in Southampton County, Va for help (could be fruitless of course).

I was raised on folktales of the Nat Turner rebellion (via my Southampton Co family) -- including tales of a "cave" on the family farm where he hid out. So, I have always been fascinated.

I even have a relevant antebellum building trivia question if you are interested (which involves a building owned by one of my cousins) -- one that is likely far easier than this one.

Alfred Brophy

This one's seriously difficult, for sure. I *do* want your antebellum building trivia question. Absolutely.

To answer this, though, we need to look a little beyond the boundary of Southampton. A little bit, anyway.

Jason Mazzone

Hertford Academy, Murfreesboro, NC.

Alfred Brophy

You're great, Jason! You are, of course, correct. The Academy is is in Murfreesboro, North Carolina, which is mighty close to Southampton, where the rebellion took place. Troops from Murfreesboro were among the first people to arrive on the scene and they participated in some of the violence in the wake of the rebellion. I want to talk about this very soon.

But I'm not quite done with the building trivia questions related to the Academy. Now that you've identified this, I think I should ask one other question about a closely related building. This'll be relatively easy because it's very nearby the Hertford Academy. And then I'll tell you how I used the Academy and the other building to locate the scene of where a slave (I think, perhaps he was a free person of African descent) was shot by the local guard in the aftermath of the rebellion.

I'll post the other building trivia question tomorrow morning.

Jason Mazzone

And I'm thinking the letter you reference was from H. Borland to Governor Montfort Stokes on Sept. 18, 1831.

Alfred Brophy

Impressive! Very impressive. That letter talks about a slave who was shot and beheaded while trying to get to to Southampton, which I'm pretty sure is the same event I'm talking about. But I am using another letter that refers to this event to triangulate to see the place where the slave was shot and then put on display. (Borland's letter doesn't have enough detail on where the slave was shot.)

In another letter Borland says some horrific things like:

It is really requisite for some time yet to show in full force, that the blacks may have view of the power which can be speedily used against [them]. The impression must be on their fears through the medium of their eyes and bodily feelings. By reason or calculation, their minds cannot be convinced of the great disparity between them and the whites in point of power, resources, etc. They must be convinced that, they must and will be soon destroyed if their conduct makes it in the least necessary.

Mighty scary, no? (And notice how he refers to sense and reason.) That gives a very graphic picture of the feelings of many in the wake of the rebellion. However, this kind of boasting about destruction "if their conduct makes it in the least necessary" doesn't take account of the centrality of slavery to the southern economy. But the threats are of ever more violence -- and there sure was a lot of it in the wake of the rebellion. This makes it all the more surprising that the Virginia legislature contemplated a gradual abolition plan in the spring of 1832.

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