Archived Story

Nat Turner’s Bible donated to Smithsonian museum

Published 10:50am Monday, February 20, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A family with Southampton County roots has donated Nat Turner’s Bible to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

“We just thought it had so much history and there’s so much bloodshed on it,” said Wendy Porter of Virginia Beach, who along with her father, Capron native Maurice Person, gave the Bible to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

A slave, Turner in 1831 led a revolt in Southampton County that became the bloodiest in American history. Fifty-five white Virginians died. In the aftermath, white militias retaliated against slaves. The state executed 56 slaves accused of being part of the rebellion. At least 100 blacks and possibly up to 200, were killed by militias and mobs.

Turner eluded capture until he was found in a hole covered with fence rails and arrested. On Nov. 5, 1831, Turner was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. He was hanged six days later in Jerusalem.

Maurice Person’s father, Walter, received the Bible in 1912 when the Southampton County Courthouse was being renovated.

“They had a bunch of things they didn’t want and he took the Bible since he belonged to Persons (United Methodist) Church (in Drewryville),” Porter said. “The family was into religion and Bibles.”

Maurice Person, who is in his 80s and lives in Virginia Beach, heard the Bible was Turner’s. The family had it on display for two years and then stored it in a safe-deposit box.

The family had hoped the Bible could go to someone who would preserve it, Porter said.

“The Bible is so fragile,” Porter said. “You can’t even open it without a page deteriorating.”

The Smithsonian was more than willing.

Nora Lockshin, a paper conservator for the Smithsonian Institution Archives, examined the paper, leather, ink and arrangement of the pages, according to a published report. The book is missing both covers, part of its spine and one chapter. Its pages are yellowed, and there are watermarks and mold. Because of its age, it cannot be opened flat.

Rick Francis, a member of the Southampton County Historical Society, has known about the Bible belonging to the Person family for most of life. The 55-year-old on at least five occasions had asked to see it.

“They always said “yes,” but I never saw it,” Francis said.

He would prefer if the Bible remained in Southampton County or on loan to the historical society.

“One, to reunite the Bible with Nat Turner’s sword,” said Francis, noting the historical society has Turner’s sword used in the 1831 massacre.

It’s not on display yet, but has been restored, he said.

Maurice Person great-grandmother, Lavinia Francis, nearly became a victim of the massacre.

“On the night of the rebellion, they were going to kill her and her family,” said Porter, a former professor of women’s studies at Old Dominion University. “Her parents weren’t home. The house slaves hid her in a closet. She survived, but several other people were killed in the nearby area.”

  • Conservetive

    @Dryrain, RLOF, you are such a contradiction lol

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    • DryRain

      Just don’t shoot the massager (me). I believe the people should hear the truth not myth’s and lies being passed on from generation to generation. Even some historians will take things out of context to get people to see their point of view. But the fact of the matter is, it is what it is; let the people form their own opinions.

      There are always reasons behind what people say and what they do, to get to the answer you to have to investigate ALL the FACTS, look at the evidence, look at backgrounds, friends, look at what is out of place, look at what doesn’t make sense, never assume anything, listen to what people are saying and what they are not saying. If I don’t know you I will not take your word for anything until you gain my trust. If you ever lie to me once, you may do it again. I learn more from listening than any other quality I have.

      As for as Gen. Forrest, he let it be known that he would not take prisoners, but in fact he was using deception, and to a degree it did work, his own soldiers believed him and started killing some people trying to surrender. Deception is one of the main strategies used in war today.

      A lot of people like to be instigators, don’t listen to the whole story, don’t want to listen to the whole story, only hear what they want to hear and will never be convinced there is another side to the story. These people can be dangerous to society and live for negative attention and only want to stir the pot and try to keep the hate going.

      You can be part of the problem are part of the solution, come together and work in unity, restore confidence, morale, integrity and work for a bright future for all peoples.

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  • DryRain

    Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest

    First let me tell you back in during there early days of the Civil War both sides had amassed large amounts of prisoners. Both sides were trying to come up with a way to exchange prisoners. At one point it was like 30 prisoners would be exchanged for say a Colonel or 60 prisoners in exchange for a General prisoner, so on and so forth, finally it got down to basically one for one. During 1862 both the North and South were down to a minimal amount of prisoners. Over time Gen. Forrest had captured thousands of prisoners only to have them returned to the North to fight another day. So this being said, it may or may not have had and influence of General Nathan Bedford Forrest decision to take no prisoners at the Battle of Fort Pillow.

    It was said that Gen. Forrest, with a command of between 5,000 and 6,000 confederate soldiers, offered the union solders at Fort Pillow a way out by surrendering, which the union soldiers were said to have refused. There where approximately 260 blacks union soldiers and approximately 500 white union soldiers at Fort Pillow. Gen. Forrest attacked Fort Pillow and then backed off offering the Union to surrender once more, which they again refused to surrender are be taken capture. In total 90 black union soldiers 205 white soldiers survived the final assault and were taken prisoner and transferred. Not all union soldiers were killed; many that tried to surrender were reportedly stood up and shot.

    Contrary to what others want you to believe, there were no black women and children purposely killed at Fort Pillow. What someone didn’t want to say was that these blacks that were killed were union soldiers in Tennessee fighting against confederate soldiers, and there were more whites killed than blacks which he failed to mention also. It is called WAR. Take no prisoners was not against the rules of War. The reason this battle was not a big issue and why most people never may had heard of Gen. Forrest’s massacre is because it was just another battle fought during the Civil War, except this battle had more black union soldiers than usual. Gen. Forrest did not discriminate against whites and blacks during battle, they all felt his wrath!

    Still you cannot compare General Forrest to Nat Turner. They had two totally different personalities and mindset.

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  • Makalani

    RE: “Nat Turner would probably be remembered better in the history books if he and his band had not slaughtered women and children.”

    That may very well be true! But I think the race of his victims has more to do with his “historical standing” than the gender/ages.

    I say that because a guy like Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s “historical standing” was not tarnished when he also slaughtered women and children. OK — let’s give him a pass on his war killings because “war is hell!”

    But he continued to slaughter people after the war as the KKK grand wizard. Does he get another pass by historians because his victims — probably women and children among them — were Black?

    In addition to a high school in Florida named after him — there is Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park in Tennessee. Impressive honors for a guy who murdered women and children!

    Mark Twain may have been on to something when he said that: “The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.” If this is true — Nat Turner never stood a chance in the history books!

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  • Makalani

    RE: “How many steps have you taken in McLemore’s shoes you constantly criticize him”
    “Touche!” Yours is a fair criticism of me!

    However — there is a MINOR difference between me and Councilman McLemore (other than my even-temper/civility) — he is a public figure and I am not. His actions as a public figure subject him to criticism — most warranted — some unwarranted — like his minor domestic spat/mirror breaking incident.

    As a public figure — he is getting paid “to do more than talk!” But as far as I can tell — talk comprises 99% of his accomplishments!

    Of course the majority is not always right! But similar to the “Golden Rule” — “the ones with the gold make the rules” — the majority sets one standard for themselves and sets another standard for “others.”

    Councilman McLemore and I both chafe under this double-standard — we just have different tactics for attacking it. He believes in head-on — no-holds-barred-full– frontal attack — I believe in subtle diplomacy.

    I have agreed with and defended Councilman McLemore on occasion and will do so in the future if I agree with him on an issue. But I probably won’t be taking too many steps in his shoes! I don’t like the direction that he is heading! lol

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  • RoyDeSoto

    Nat Turner would probably be remembered better in the history books if he and his band had not slaughtered women and children.

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  • Makalani

    RE: “The person writing about Nathan Bedford Forrest…”

    I fully UNDERSTAND and can relate to people’s passions about issues even though I don’t necessarily share their passions/POV on a particular issue. However — when people express their POV in a public forum — they should not be put off by dissenting POV because everyone doesn’t share their passion/POV.

    RE: “Wouldn’t some regard Forrest as a “cold blooded murderer?”

    Undoubtedly — Gen. Forrest was a cold-blooded murderer and not a very nice guy but apparently that elevates his status in some peoples’ minds. There is a high school in Jacksonville, Fl. named after him. Which is OK! People are certainly entitled to select their “heroes.”

    Conversely — the same “cold-blooded murderer” description can be applied to Nat Turner. Like Gen. Forrest — his being a cold-blooded murderer elevates his status in some peoples’ minds.

    Will a high school ever be named after Nat Turner? Probably when people are playing ice hockey in Hades! LOL

    Do I consider Nat Turner a “hero?” EMPHATICALLY NO! No more than I would consider Gen. Forrest a “hero.” The word “hero” is bandied about too loosely. Hero should be reserved for people who accomplish positive deeds that benefit society or individuals. Murdering and maiming people is hardly beneficial to them.

    Instead — I think of Nat Turner as “courageous.” Unfortunately — he sought to change his status and that of his fellow slaves by the only means available to him — violence. Like Mr. Howell pointed out — slaves didn’t have a lot negotiating leverage!

    “Circular thinkers” cannot “annul” his rightful place in history anymore than those who oppose what Gen. Forrest stood for will ever have his nefarious exploits expunged from history books.

    PS: For the “slavery wasn’t so bad crowd/proponents:” Gen. Forrest was also a plantation owner. Do you think that being a slave was “not so bad” on his plantation? If you do — you need to put down the “wacky tabaccy!” lol

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  • Makalani

    Conservetive –RE: “Now, Now Makalani you’re starting to sound like an intelligent proud black man…”

    You are funny! You have never taken “two steps in my shoes” but have a formulated your opinions of me based on my comments directed at a politician — Councilman McLemore. Unfortunately — I don’t see him as you do — a crusader — a point man spearheading the fight for Black equality in Franklin. I have a basic disdain for politicians and Councilman McLemore happens to fit most of the negative criteria which I use to assess them.

    But he and I can agree on one thing — Whites can’t dictate to Black folx who we can hold up as our heroes anymore than Blacks can dictate to Whites who they designate as their heroes. If Nat Turner is a hero to some Black people — that should certainly be their right. Similarly — if some Whites want to designate Nathan Bedford Forrest as a hero — they are well within their right to do so!

    A recent TN columnist proudly proclaimed that his grandfather rode with Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest during the Civil War.

    From http://www.history.com:
    “Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-77) was a Confederate general in the American Civil War (1861–65). Forrest was often described as a “born military genius,” and his rule of action–“Get there first with the most men” — became one of the most often quoted slogans of the war.

    However, his impressive military prowess was tarnished by his April 12, 1864, slaughter of more than 300 black men, women and children at Fort Pillow, Tennessee, after the fort had been surrendered.

    Following the war, Forrest became the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.”

    Nat Turner — led a slave revolt slaughtering innocent Whites.
    Nathan Bedford Forrest led America’s 1st domestic terrorist organization slaughtering innocent Blacks!

    Just goes to show: “One man’s hero is another man’s terrorist.” We should be careful about dictating other folks’ heroes!

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    • 1stAmendment

      Interesting connection, Makalani. The person writing about Nathan Bedford Forrest (which was such an incidental comment as to almost be unnecessary) just happens to belong to the same organization the persons so vehemently opposed to any mention of Nat Turner do. Hmmm. Wouldn’t some regard Forrest as a “cold blooded murderer?” He killed 31 men in hand to hand combat!

      Turner only killed 1!

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    • employee2

      Seems to be a fair & balanced assessment of the story. I had never heard of the Nathan Bedford Forrest before.

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    • Conservetive

      You too are funny, How many steps have you taken in McLemore’s shoes you constantly criticize him lol. Its like the Councilman that you have so such disdain for share many opinions alike. You both strike me as intelligent men but for some reason, perhaps the “Willie Lynch syndrome and method repercussions” cause you two to separate and disagree constantly, instead of uniting to encourage, influence and educate people regarding the great deceptors that you both know who they are. You both seem to care about people except the Councilman does more than talk or write about the issues, he gets involved on the front lines to try to make a difference. You both are entitled to make mistakes but you both as do many acknowledge slavery as practiced in America was a pitiful American staple that was embraced by the majority of Americans, which is proof positive that the majority is not always right. The majority should not determine what is right or wrong, one’s conscience should.

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  • Makalani

    RE: “… and not all slaves hated their situation of being a slave…”
    Of course not all slaves hated their condition. People can adapt to almost any condition if given no alternative. Sometimes hostages — if held long enough — begin to identify with their captors (Stockholm syndrome — Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army being a prime example. Soldiers in WW1 got used to living in mud-filled trenches for months on end. Humans adapt to their environment. The absence of hating one’s environment doesn’t necessarily mean liking it.

    RE: “Nat had issues…he would have killed people whether he was born into slavery are not been born into slavery…” “…I do not feel slavery was the root cause of his behavior. …”

    Pure speculation! It is just as easy for me to speculate that being a slave all his life was gnawing at his mind — feeding his passion to revolt!

    RE:”Apparently this slave issue brings out people’s true colors.”

    Naturally — any discussion about slavery will evoke strong POV from some people. If some peoples’ “emotionally intense” POV are construed by some as being racist feelings — that doesn’t make it so. But again — people are entitled to believe what they believe.

    PS- Attempting to discuss slavery/Nat Turner and ignoring the issue of race is analogous to trying to explain the Theory of Relativity and ignoring Einstein.

    Race — slavery — Nat Turner — inextricably interwoven — FOREVER!

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  • Makalani

    RE:”Makalani: what proves this whole paragraph is not a fallacy of your imagination?”

    My opinions are buttressed by having read many books on slavery. I have also read first-person slave narratives written by former slaves and narratives dictated by illiterate slaves. These accounts give a truer picture of slavery than the sanitized — sugar-coated version of slavery presented by apologists for the “Southern Way of Life/Civil War-fought-for-states-rights/slavery-wasn’t that-bad-crowd/adherents!”

    From PBS.org:
    “The narratives told of the horrors of family separation, the sexual abuse of black women, and the inhuman workload. They told of free blacks being kidnapped and sold into slavery. They described the frequency and brutality of flogging and the severe living conditions of slave life. They also told exciting tales of escape, heroism, betrayal, and tragedy.”

    People believe what they believe. If you believe that Blacks were equally responsible for slavery — that’s fine. I happen to have a different POV and have a way of vehemently expressing that POV. If you consider that as “name-calling and trying make someone feel guilty about it” [slavery]– you are certainly entitled to interpret my remarks any way you like.

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  • Masknup

    Mr. Howell:

    What a “pity” that you couldn’t see the main topic and reasoning behind Mr. Darden’s post. Nat Turner was a murderer…PERIOD! That was his while point! I sumise that is too deep for you to understand. Too bad that you are to much of a “circular” thinker yourself. Mr. Darden never stated that slavery was right. He never stated that Nat Turner wasn’t intelligent (although laughable) or that he wasn’t discriminated against. Robert Darden is a fine gentleman and a man of good character. He is a true “son” of Southampton County. He should have never of been belittled and basically called a racist by you. His entire point was why is a MASS MURDERER’S artifacts being placed in a museum to celebrate the African American’s accomplishments in this country? Turner would be considered to be the same gruesome criminal today. (Especially with the media in place today) Shame on you for not seeing the point due to your short-sighted liberal opinions. I am not shocked though however by the racial bombthrowers like yourself and others today.

    I have read much of the garbage you opine in the Tidewater News. Quite frankly, I think it is a pity that your posts are even allowed.

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    • JDHowell

      Sorry, Mr. Masknup. You just didn’t get it. Probably never will. Pity.

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    • spider68

      I am sorry to disagree with you Masknup, however, i do not think Mr Howells articles are garbage at all. In fact i think they are very insightful. I do not know Mr. Robert Darden personally, however, if he is the son of an individual that i worked with and had some discussions with at U.C. for quite a number of years, then i can full well understand his initial comment,if he bears the same feelings as his father did.

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    • 1stAmendment

      Wow, Masknup. “Quite frankly, I think it is a pity that your posts are even allowed”

      Last time I checked, this is still America, not Libya or the former Soviet Union.

      I would agree with you, but then we would both be wrong.

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    • 1stAmendment

      @ Masknup:

      I have reviewed the points opined by JDHowell. I am shocked, appalled, frighened even by his liberal, anti-American views. How can The Tidewater News allow such garbage? You are soooooo right, the man is clearly an unstable rabble rouser.

      Writing about chicken pot pie? Crazy talk. We all know anyone who eats THAT has got to be a leftist of the most communistic persuasion.

      He liked TRAINS as a small boy? Un American! Put him before the firing squad!

      Traveled to WALTERS to visit his aunt? Who doesn’t know that Walters has always been a den of subversion, a nest for little lwftists.

      Going Spaits’ Corner in Cypress Bridge as a child to swim, he claims. Huh. Even as a child he was learning at the knee of garbage spewing America haters.

      Finally, writing about and attending old fashioned church revivials and claining he has “come home?” Oh, Masknup, you are so right. How could I ever have thought this man was an innocent freedom and coountry loving small town American with pride in his heritage. He should go back to the liberal community that raised him in 1955 when he went to high school.

      Oh, my bad. He is still here.

      Keep on hatin’, my friend. Especially when you have the facts behind you.

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  • DryRain

    Thanks to the people that are donating Nat Turner Bible, it would have been great for the Southampton Historical Society to have gotten it but it was their decision.

    I don’t think any of these people commenting on this TN article think that slavery was right, slavery was wrong any kind of way you look at it. Wrong just like the people that are trying to make slavery a black white issue. The issue was slavery, not whites against blacks and anyone trying to make it a black white issue are just setting themselves up to be called a racist. Apparently this slave issue brings out people’s true colors.

    Percentage-wise there were very very few white slave owners. It is like saying that all Mexicans are illegal aliens, all Arabs are terrorist and it just isn’t true. Not all blacks were slaves, and not all slaves hated their situation of being a slave, contrary to what some people may want you to believe.

    I still feel that Nat had issues and because of those issues he would have killed people whether he was born into slavery are not been born into slavery. I do not feel slavery was the root cause of his behavior. I don’t think in terms of black and white, I am just a slave to my God, family and job, woe is me. I try always to see the good in people, I don’t dwell on the past, and evil heart is a dying heart. Being a Native American I can understand people’s feelings, but the past has no hold on me on.

    Future reference, Wikipedia (Nat Turner) is not correct, lots of mistakes; just compare it to Nat Turners Confession.

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  • Makalani

    “… and the real “bad guys” here were the members of those stronger tribe, more Africans, not the white man.”

    Even though in a fair-minded manner you include a disclaimer that Whites were “wrong to purchase another human” there is still an attempt to sugarcoat slavery/give the White slave owners a pass by blaming Africans.

    How can the White man not be the “original culprit” when he created the market for slaves? If the slave owners were not captivated by greed and had any morals at all — the slave traders would not have had a market for their slaves and the practice of capturing slaves would have ceased.

    Since you say that slavery was an “acceptable practice” — those who had no moral qualms about owning other humans/slaves would have found a way to obtain them regardless of who supplied them.

    Any attempts to depict slavery in America as anything other than a vile/repugnant practice and slave owners as anything other than reprehensible — degenerate — morally bankrupt human beings will be lost on this commentator!

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    • simplifyingit

      Mak: we all (blacks and whites alike) share the fault for slavery but it was more than 150yrs ago and nobody alive was involved. Don’t revert to name calling to try to make someone feel guilty about it please.

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  • Makalani

    RE: “Turner in his own words was not treated badly by his owner(s), “Mr. Joseph Travis, who was to me a kind master, and placed the greatest confidence in me; in fact, I had no cause to complain of his treatment to me”

    The ole “slavery wasn’t that bad” canard rears its ugly head again. The very act of enslaving people is “treating them badly.” Nat Turner not having been physically beat may tend to imply that his “Massa was a good man!” Enslaving one’s fellow humans nullifies any redeeming moral values/qualities a slave owner may have possessed. It’s very doubtful also that the Travis plantation had an official “No Beatings” policy!

    Since the Whites on many plantations were often outnumbered by the slaves — brutality was one tool used to keep the slaves in line. Favoritism was another tool used to keep the slaves “divided and conquered” — pitted against each other as opposed to their common enemy — their oppressors. The field slaves vs. the house slaves — the dark-skinned ones vs. the lighter-skinned ones — the ones assigned as overseers vs. the ones being “overseen” — the ones who were beat regularly vs. the ones shown mercy — the ones sired by the “Massa” vs the unlucky ones LOL etc. etc. How else did handfuls of Whites control dozens — sometimes 100s of slaves on the plantations?

    Someone looking to reaffirm their fallacious notions are probably heartened to read that Nat Turner “was not treated that badly/ran away but came back!” They can then speculate why he staged his deadly rebellion — applying whatever fatuous motives that fit their POV.

    Nat Turner being a slave his whole life was all the motivation necessary!

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    • simplifyingit

      Since the Whites on many plantations were often outnumbered by the slaves — brutality was one tool used to keep the slaves in line. Favoritism was another tool used to keep the slaves “divided and conquered”………….so on as you wrote,

      Makalani: what proves this whole paragraph is not a fallacy of your imagination? It IS simply your opininon since you were not a slave or massa. We know what they say about opinions!

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    • Conservetive

      Now, Now Makalani you’re starting to sound like an intelligent proud black man, you know what comes next, and you’ll be called a racist for speaking the truth as the facts dictate. You will lose all your McLemore hating supporters regardless of your eloquent articulate writing style. As long as you attack another proud African American you’re their hero. But that’s o.k. you know McLemore’s motto; “Lord forgive them, they know not what they do”. I’m sure Councilman McLemore would forgive your treason and welcome you back home with the other patriots that speak truth to power because knowing him as I do he loves you too and anyone that speaks truth to the ruling class. Nat Turner was a “Hero” there I said it. He murdered far less people than Andrew Jackson, ask the Native Americans, Jefferson Davis ask the Union soldiers, or George w. Bush, ask the civilians of Iraq, don’t forget that terrorist Christopher Columbus but, un or miseducated fools call them heroes even celebrate their birthdays. Keep it real Nat Turner did what anyone who was a slave wanted to do but was just too intimidated and afraid to do it. So, now let the racist attackers begin their assault for me speaking the truth as I see it, as normal. Oops they will probably delete this one lol. In fact does anyone know where someone can buy a t-shirt that says “I am Nat Turner”?

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    • Conservetive

      @Makalani, remember your own words the next time you use your talents to attack the only City official fighting the economic, social, mental, and incarcerated slavery imposed upon the citizens of Franklin. “Favoritism was another tool used to keep the slaves “divided and conquered” — pitted against each other as opposed to their common enemy — their oppressors”. May Allah bless you as you change like Saul to Paul and use your talent to uplift and support those who fight oppression even if you don’t rejoice in their methods!!!

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  • Liberty With Responsibility

    I remember hearing from historians that in the old days in Africa (maybe still today?)when they went to tribal war, the winning tribe used to kill all the African prisoners, because they did not want to have to feed them from their own limited foodstocks. At some point in time, somebody figured out they could avoid killing them, and instead sell them, for a profit, to others. Eventually they and the Europeans ran into each other, and a profitable slave trade was established. So, initially, mercy (not killing the POWs) and profit (slaved trading) merged into one. Any one else here know about this possibility?

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  • DryRain

    Confessions of Nat Turner

    http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/turner/turner.html

    maybe we should all read this before WE/US start talking about hearsay.

    This is very interesting, I have read it years ago, but it helps refresh my memory.

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    • 1stAmendment

      DryRain, excellent suggestion. If you will sign up and take a tour with the Southampton Historical Society (they have them every couple of months) you will find that the leaders of the tour are experts on that writing, and can pretty well quote it verbatim.

      If you want to get an unbiased, historically accurate fadt based presentation, take a tour or ask the men to speak to your group. You get the facts presented by a descendant of a victim, and a descendant of Turner.

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  • FromHere

    Jeff Turner has the best comment of all! Why on earth was it not given to the Southampton Historical Society?

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  • 1stAmendment

    Oh Flowergirl, what an excellent question.

    Certainly, the way the Person family obtained the Bible in 1912 today would be a very illegitimate taking of someone else’s property. Problem is, as JDHowell pointed out, slaves were not “allowed” to own property (being prooperty themselves” so technically Nat’s Bible belonged to his master. I know for years many in the Historical Society clamored for just a peek at this historic artificat – but the Person family refused. Maybe they were worried of a possibility the Bible might be appropriated.

    ALso, I have heard that there are persons in this county, black and white, who own silverware, jewelry, and other artifacts stolen from the family of the white families that were killed. One of them was even quoted in a newspaper that he has these objects on display in his home.

    So, where is the rightful place for these artifacts? And, the point that VICTIMS of the Insurrection turned the Bible over to the museum is what makes it, in my mind, ludicrous for anyone to claim that Nat Turner is being “glorified” by this event — the Person/Francis family was the most affected numbers wise by the slayings.

    I would be interested to know if the Turner descendants could sue for the return of their ancestor’s Bible.

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    • Flowergirl

      1st Amendment remember the article as it is written, “Person’s father received the Bible as the courthouse was being renovated in 1912.” Person’s took the Bible to his church.” Yes there are many artifacts in this county people are holding on to for greed or selfishness. Why would the victims want to hold on to something that was so painful for them and their families? There is nothing glamorous about killing slave or not. However, I am glad that the Person’s family took care of the Bible, but after all these years knowing that Nat Turner still have living descendants, it would have been a descent gesture to share or show the Bible to the living ancestors to help them understand their relative Nat Turner before they turned it over to the Smitsonian Museum. Yes alot of artifacts have been stolen or let’s say “misplaced” that people are holding on to. A fork or knife might not a have story, but a Bible does have a story and a history as well.

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  • Flowergirl

    Just thinking…. “Was the Bible shared with Nat Turner’s living ancestors that are alive and well in Southampton County?” There appears to be quite a few artifacts that people in Southampton County are holding and will not share with the living ancestors? I did not read anything in this article where the Tidewater News interviewed or acknowledged the surviving ancestors and what they thought about the family artifact.

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  • Conservetive

    It is refreshing to read such articulate blogs on such pertinent historical references from 1stIndependent, JDHowell, rdarden everyone. Even from, Makalani and sweet&juicy sounding like modern day rebels that are non violent like a certain Councilman we know . Its just sad that we can’t be as up on our current events, truths and deceptions!!!!

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    • 1stAmendment

      Well stated, Conservetive (sic). I guess when we are making history we cannot stand back and look at it objectively —as we still can’t apparently, when history is old history!

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  • jigganva

    What makes Turner’s story even more sensational is the fact that he was a FREE MAN at the time of this rebellion. He could not stand to see his fellow brothers and sisters treated this way any longer. In all races there are bad and good. Africans sold each other into slavery after tribal feuds and there were some whites that fought to end slavery.

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    • 1stAmendment

      Ooops – double check facts – he was not free – still a slave when he orchestrated the rebellion.

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  • http://www.blackwaternottoway.com Jeff Turner

    Why did they not give it to the Southampton Historical Society?

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    • 1stAmendment

      Good question. With a tour being planned, and so much here to see and the people to talk to – why send it to Washington? Although more people of course will have the opportunity to see it.

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  • JDHowell

    Thank you Mr. Person and Ms. Porter for selflessly sharing an authentic and important artifact from American history with the museum.

    For Mr. Darden:

    You’re quite right Mr. Darden. Nat Turner’s actions were illegal and an affront to any civilized society.

    Nat Turner, as Dr. King in later years, could have held a sit-down strike in a cornfield, inviting other person’s of similar feelings to join him. But that was illegal.

    Nat Turner could have written a letter of protest to The Richmond Times Dispatch or other newspaper. But it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write, although Nat Turner could. Slaves were not permitted money or property; so he would have had neither paper nor pen nor postage. That was illegal

    Nat Turner could have sent his wife or other family member to help with the protest. But slaves were not permitted to marry. Children of any relationship became the property of the owner of the mother.

    Nat Turner could have sought help from a church or clergy; there were many such organizations in the area. Members of those organizations were slave owners. Any protests were illegal.

    Nat Turner, in his revolt, could have used a gun or some other less gruesome method of killing. Few slaves, if any, in the neighborhood had any familiarity with the use of guns. To possess a gun was illegal.

    Nat Turner could have used his native intelligence to bring about change. He, by all accounts, was highly intelligent, probably in the genius range (my opinion). Certainly he was brighter than most persons in the county. But, he could not have been, according to slave owners. Slaves could not be intelligent; although being intelligent was not illegal.

    Nat Turner could have, somehow, found his way to town (Jerusalem) and entered Mahone’s Tavern, the local watering hole, meeting and greeting, and polling place. I’m sure he would have been warmly greeted. Maybe by cries of “Hey, Nat. How you doing? How’s life treating you? How’re things in the slave quarters. I hear you’re quite the stud. All that fresh air is good for you. Looks like you’re getting fat from all the food” and other such small talk. Surely local citizens would have sympathized with his plight.

    Nat Turner and his followers killed. They were tried and hanged. In the aftermath, local militias and mobs killed. No one was tried. It was not illegal to kill, maim, or torture black people.

    Sorry, Mr. Darden. You just don’t get it. Probably never will. Pity.

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    • 1stAmendment

      Good analysis, JDHowell. Your explanation should cause any thinking person to realize that comparing Turner to Jeffrey Dahmer, Hitler, Cho Seung-Hoi, or the Columbine killers is indeed, circular thinking with a lack of logic.

      Dahmer killed boys because he wanted to eat them. he was not trying to spread cannibalism, it was for his own selfish sociopathic desires. His childhood history bears out that he was deranged from early on. pretty sure Turner didn’t eat anyone.

      Hitler killed people because he did not like them, He hated Jews, Catholics, the handicapped, gypsies. He wanted to cleanse the world with a Final Solution. Pretty sure Turner did not want to cleanse the earth of all whites.

      Cheung-Hoi’s motivation – as far as we can tell, severe mental illness from childhood. A severe reaction to alienation and bullying. Turner chose his victims – they were not random.

      Columbine – the two wanted to go down in history as having the worst massacre ever. That is it.

      Turner? No evidence of insanity through youth and maturity. No torturing of animals, setting fires, bullying. His motive was not selfish — he wanted to end slavery. Just years earlier Gabriel Prosser had tried and failed, Toussaint L’Ouverture had tried and succeeded.
      Of course, we all know the earthquake that hit Haiti was in punishment for that coup d’etat – Pat Robertson told me so.

      To follow the reasoning of this comment blog, here are persons considered heroes that deserve to be cast out of history books, and sentenced as brutal thug killers.
      1. Joan of Arc – thousands dead by her command and hand. Fighting for freedom – not a good enough reason.
      2. Ulysses S. Grant – called “the Butcher” by his own men – over 100,000 of his own men died because they were needed for cannon fodder. Fighting to keep the Union together? No good.
      3. William Tecumseh Sherman – many historians and psychologists agree that he was insane.
      4. My personal favorite (although no more since he clearly is just a no good common garden variety criminal) –John S. Mosby.
      5. Andrew Jackson – at the War of New Orleans, 2000 plus dead at his order. Fighting against what the British had done to the US and himself personally just shows his selfish motives.
      Pretty much anyone in the Revolution – because the lawful authority was King George, and they felt he was unjust. Why go to war? Pure and simple blood lust –
      I could go on and on. Wow. Slavery was a bad thing – we all seem to agree, but since it was “accepted” at that time, Turner should have lumped it and taken his licks like a man.
      Oh. Except slavery wasn’t that accepted in 1831. 1794 the French abolished slavery. 1807 England had abolished it.
      Was it nice that Turner killed women and children? Heck no. Was it nice that one of my favorite presidents, Harry Truman, is responsible for over 100000 persons dying horrifically and lingeringly, including women and children? No.
      When will we understand that history is neither good nor bad. It just is. We can learn from it, remember it, and not repeat the wrongs.
      Is it a race card if played by a white?

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    • Conservetive

      BRAVO!!!!!

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    • DryRain

      @ JDHowell
      Slavery was WRONG!!!!! Now for a few corrections.

      At the time before the insurrection it was not illegal to teach slaves to read and write it was BECAUSE of the insurrection they were not allowed to go to any schools for years.

      Slaves did have some money, not much but some, they also had paper to write on, pencils to write with, made toys for the children, etc… Nat Turner was always building things, reading, writing and wondering off to be by himself.

      The slaves did marry, had their own church services, and sang religious songs all the time. Remember it is the people not the building that makes a church.

      Some slaves carry guns to hunt with and to scare off animals from eating crops. It was two black hunters that first found Nat Turner. It was some slaves that fought off the attacking slaves with their guns to protect their owners.

      Nat was a self taught man; I would not say that made him an intellect.

      Many slaves went to town for supplies, and I am sure there were rednecks that taunted them just like the rednecks do today. But they go to town, they did talk to others, they did gained respect from both white and blacks. Only negative people would think everyone hated a slave and always treated them bad, isn’t that right Mr. Howell?

      Many slaves were killed DURING the insurrection; after all, the revolting slaves were trying to kill as many of the people they could and people had to protect themselves. After the revolt stop, everyone thought to have taken part in the insurrection were gathered up and arrested, given a fair trial and where either acquitted, charges dropped, released, transferred to prison, are found guilty. They were not shot on sight are hanged on the spot.

      You definitely need to stop watching movies and TV versions of how it was back in the days of slavery and start reading books from the Library of Congress; you will gain knowledge and not go around repeating hearsay and outright lies and sounding like a closed minded person.

      History is being rewritten all the time and if people are that narrow minded and don’t want to hear the truth are can’t handle the truth then I feel sorry for them and others like them.

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      • JDHowell

        Not all from the Library of Congress, but it’s enough to get you started.

        Try these:
        1.Nat Turners Insurrection, 1861, T.W.Higginson.

        2.Nat Turner’s Revolt, Rebellion and Response in Southampton County, Virginia, 2005, Doctoral dissertation, Patrick H. Breen, University of Goergia.

        3.The Rebellious Slave, Nat Turner in American Memory.

        4.American Negro Slave Revolts (1943), Herbert Aptheker

        5.The Black Man, his antecedents, his genius, and his achievements, 1863, William Wells Brown.

        6.North American Slave Narratives,(Introduction), 2004, William L. Andrews.

        7.Confessions of Nat Turner, 1831, Thomas Gray.

        8.The SOuthampton Slave Revolt of 1831,1973, Henry Irving Tragle, (Probably the best source for newspapers, and diaries of the period)

        Such as: “We learn that, the troops under the command of Gen. Brodnax, had slain upwards of 90 blacks, taken the leader in that section proper, cut off his head and limbs and hung them in different sections, to inspire a salutary terror among the slaves. The jails, too, we learn, are crowded with negroes taken up on suspicion; every one found in the attitude of resistance, or with arms in their hands, having been shot down without judge or jury.”
        The (Lynchburg) Virginian, Sept. 1, 1831

        9.America, A Narrative History, 7th edition, 2007, Tindall, et al

        Maybe you know more than these people, DryRain. I don’t.

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  • DryRain

    I believe in preserving history, good are bad, hopefully we learn from our mistakes and move on.

    I can only compare Nat Turner to Charles Manson. Turner and Manson were both short men, both felt superior to the people around them. They both planned criminal acts and used others to carry them out. Manson always said he was a victim of society, I think it can be said so was Turner, but Turner was more a product of his own imagination.

    Turner in his own words was not treated badly by his owner(s), “Mr. Joseph Travis, who was to me a kind master, and placed the greatest confidence in me; in fact, I had no cause to complain of his treatment to me” . Turner at one time had been a “run away” only to return 30 days later. No one beat him nor did they treat him badly when he returned back to the farm, and it was for that reason Turner said “negroes found fault, and murmured against me.”

    “Borne down by this load of guilt, your only justification is, that you were led away by fanaticism.” According to Jeremiah Cobb, Esq. Chairman of the Court before pronouncing the death sentence on Turner.

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  • SlimPickens

    And who says slavery was right? I do not see where anyone made such a comment but as usual we can all rest assured that the real racist people willplay that infamous “race card” every time they can slip it in. What people fail to realize, if you pay attention in grammer school, when slavery was an acceptable practice, the “slavers” would travel across the ocean and purchase slaves that were captured by the stronger tribes (fellow Africans). So the White Man was not the original culprit. Were they wrong to purchase another human being? Of course they were but it was an acceptable practice then, and the real “bad guys” here were the members of those stronger tribe, more Africans, not the white man.

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  • Makalani

    RE: “I believe it is preposterous for Turner to have any place in history.”

    “circular thinking” — an inability to think/reason beyond ones’ upbringing and/or conditioning

    I too have a very busy life! I’m done!

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  • rdarden

    Until people get rid of this “Majority Culture” attitude, nothing in this country will change. I quite frankly don’t owe any of the “minority” a thing, other than a lending hand as a Christian and fellow American. As a country in whole, the race card has become a very old and worn out ploy by those to force others into their way of thinking. But as is the case with those with black/white thought processes, it is always and will always be a racial issue. It has been misused so much that when a true racial wrong has been committed it is often taken as “crying wolf”.

    I will continue to educate my children on the truths of being right and wrong throughout their lives. I am certainly not a circular thinker, although I got a good laugh out of that comment! Too bad some did not see that in my previous article. I guess adding factual information is too circular for some from their point of view to understand. I guess some did not understand the context of what my point is. I believe it is preposterous for Turner to have any place in history.

    Is Cho Seung-Hoi a historical figure for people of Asian decent, no. He was a cold-blooded murderer. Is Jeffery Dahmer’s bible or books on display, absolutely not. He was a cold-blooded murderer. I think it is a shame to have a person who committed crimes such as Turner did against women and children to have a significant place in history. That was and is my point. Sorry some make it a racial issue.

    As I stated in my previous article, slavery was a dark stain on the history of our country. Yes, people were abused and mistreated. I did not state that it was celebrated or ignored, It was absolutely wrong. But two wrongs do not make a right. I am glad to see that others agree with my point of view.

    I will not reply to any further posts as I have a busy life, and will not continue to play an email battle. I wish all of you good luck in your future and may God continue to bless our nation.

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  • Makalani

    What a magnanimous gesture! A piece of Americana as significant as Nat Turner‘s Bible being shared with all Americans. Thank you Maurice Person and Wendy Porter.

    181years is enough time for the animus associated with Nat Turners’ rebellion to have subsided/dissipated. But apparently — for some circular thinkers — the memories are “still too fresh to move on!” They are upholding proud family traditions of not questioning passed-along-ignorance and probably passing such ignorance onto their progeny.

    In-between condemning Nat Turner — try walking a mile in his shoes. It’s very doubtful if someone born into contemporary “majority privileged culture” would have made it two feet — much less a mile — walking in Nat Turner‘s shoes.

    For starters — visualize being born into slavery — coming into consciousness as a child and realizing that slavery is your lot in life — for the rest of your life. Your fate is a lifetime of hard work for only sustenance — unmerciful beatings for being uppity/lazy — watching children toil alongside adults — your family sold like livestock — the “Massa” sexually abusing/violating women and children with impunity. You are a man but can’t intervene. Imagine waking up to those realities every day!

    It’s any wonder that Nat Turner did not revolt sooner and more “Nat Turners” did not precede him. How many of those who condemn Nat Turner would not have similarly revolted if born into his situation?

    Demonizing Nat Turner is easy for members of the majority culture! Your ancestors were on the “righteous Christian/good side of the slavery equation!” Understandably — an objective POV relative to the abysmal plight of slaves is an absurd notion! Similarly absurd is condemning “the Christian slave owners” (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) who committed “cold-blooded, mass-murderer” of innocents after Nat Turner’s rebellion. The same Bible that inspired Nat Turner was also used by some to justify slavery. It also advocates an “eye for an eye…!” No problem with the retaliatory killings!

    What did Nat Turner have to lose if his revolt failed but his life? A life that consisted of a miserable — brutal — dehumanizing — horrid existence as a slave. The inane stereotypes of “happy darkies” blithely picking cotton while singing “Swing Low — Sweet Chariot/”Negro spirituals probably make the “cerebrally challenged” think that slavery was not that bad. Circular thinkers can’t wrap their minds around the idea that a slave — inspired by God — would have the temerity to stage a deadly revolt — the ultimate act of “uppityness!”

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  • sweetnjuicy

    I am glad that someone else noted that the article did not refer to Nat Turner as a hero. I am also glad to see that at least one person admitted that slavery was wrong, which seems to have been a point that was overlooked. However, I stand firm in my belief that the murder of innocent people is wrong no matter what the situation. MAYBE we need to look at this from another point. I have yet to read that it was wrong for the number of slaves that were hung, as was customary at the time. Was it wrong for the number of slaves that were killed in the aftermath if the insurrection? There are even roads in Southampton County named for these tragic events. Slaves were beaten, hanged, taken away from their families and mistreated in every manner possible during that era. MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, Nat Turner got tired of it and felt something needed to be done. As I said, that does not justify murder, but I have never heard any reasonable justification for slavery either. These actions may not be acceptable, but certainly, with an open mind, understandable.

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  • DryRain

    Turner certainly wasn’t a hero by any means. Because of him blacks were not allowed to attend school for many years after that. He did not accomplish anything and did more harm than good to his people.

    So when are they going to have the bus tour of the Turner Insurrection in Southampton County?

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  • Maxdoubt

    What a wonderful gift! A big “Thank You” to the Person family. No doubt this singular book will occupy a special place in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I can’t wait to see what articles and investigations it sparks. Thanks again for sharing our history with everyone.

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  • rdarden

    1st Amendment:

    Thanks for being concerned about my whereabouts during 11th grade history. I was awake and quite well at Franklin High School in 1990. I also managed to become a college graduate (with high honors!) and have enjoyed a very successful and rewarding career! I do enjoy hunting…(spelled with a “g”). I also do celebrate my rich Southern heritage which dates back into the early 1700′s in Isle of Wight and Southampton Counties. I also happen to be an avid reader on American History during the timeframe of 1830-1875, a rich legacy instilled in me by my father. So with that in mind, I have read numerous books and articles of the events leading up to the Civil War. This would qualify me as a reference on the topic of the Civil War.

    For decades leading up to the war, the Northern States (primarily the New England States) had quite a disdain for the southern people. This dislike didn’t have anything to do with slavery. It was simply over greed and a sterotype of the southern people as being “inferior” to that of northern people. I encourage you and others to reference “The Post & Email” article entitled “Do the States have the Right to Secede?” by Jim Delaney dated July 23, 2011. I also encourage you to reference Loyola University Professor, Thomas DiLorenzo’s article entitled “The Great Equalizer” which fully explains in detail, the issues leading up to the war. High tariffs and the protection of northern industry, and the trampling of states’ rights are what aided in fanning the flames of war.

    Lincoln chose to make the case of slavery the larger issue when northern support for the war was in sharp decline in 1863. By having the abolitionists bolster war support, this enabled the slavery issue onto the scene of political expediency. And thus “The Emancipation Proclimation” was born. This would continue the war on a new political front, and help Lincoln avoid the embarrasment of an unjust war on a soveriegn nation; the Confedarate States of America. In 1847 on the floor of Congress, Lincoln gave verbal support of the states’ right to secede the Union if the government became oppressive. Obviously, Mr. Lincoln was a predecessor of modern politicians whom are very much “Long on words and short on memory”.

    I hope this has enabled some of you who are not completely mis-informed into doing a little research and discovering the true history of the Civil War. As far as reading my children’s history books,I do not have faith in these books when it was ordered by the State of Virginia to remove the verbage that stated: “thousands of black men fought for and aided the south in the war”. This angered those mis-informed on the facts of the war. These books had to be altered because they did not want the story presented, as it would undermine their false version of history. This part of history was no more than an “Inconvienent Truth” to the politically-correct history police. It has been proven by photographs and documentation, that thousands of black men freely fought for the south. But as it goes in history, those who are defeated will have their version of history chosen by the victor.

    I am very proud of Southampton County, my home and birthplace. What do we have to be proud of on a global scale? Here are a couple of items: We have one of the largest and most well documented Indian villages in North America on the banks of the Nottoway in the “Hand Site”. This Cheroenhaka Indian site has been studied by thousands of students in colleges and universities throughout the world in publications produced by the Archoelogical Society of Virginia. We have a rich argicultural community that provides our country and the world with gourmet Virginia Jumbo peanuts for millions to enjoy. So I would say that Southampton County has many things to be proud of that are “historically significant” to the world!

    As for Nat Turner, yes he is a part of Southampton County’s rich history as is his Bible, and the dark days of slavery. There is no doubting upon that. But I have grown tired of hearing Turner called a “hero”. I heard it and read of it all through my elementary education in Courtland. Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King are two of many examples of true “heroes” as they worked for justice and freedom for Black Americans in a peaceful and tireless effort. They are clear examples that we as Americans can all agree upon as earning the title “hero”.

    I think I have built upon my 11th grade US History education pretty well 1st Amendment.

    Robert E. Darden

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    • commoncents

      Well stated Mr. Darden!

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    • 1stAmendment

      Excellent points, almost all!

      Question: Where in this article do you see Turner called or referred to as a “hero?”

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      • Conservetive

        Indeed as Mr. Darden mentioned “history IS written by the VICTORS”, he could not have been more correct including American History , just ask the Native Americans. Unfortunately, Mr. Darden is trying to say that the truth regarding slave support for the South was left out of history teachings because it would have showed that the slaves were happy being slaves and truly loved their masters and a perpetual life of slavery for their children, enough to risk their lives and die for the good ole South. I think that is pretty accurate as to Mr. Darden’s eloquent statement. It is also for this method of thinking that justifies american popular thinking by non blacks. Nat Turner was just a cold blooded murderer just like Col. Kallie from the Meli massacre, Adolf Hitler, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, don’t forget Harry Truman. The thousands of American professional & armature hangmen had their own “Union” (just joking) were not murderer’s , just good law abiding heroes that were doing their jobs protecting good law abiding white folks from them darkie niggras . Long live Dixie, Segregation yesterday, segregation today, segregation forever” would probably be Mr. Dardens secret rallying cry echoing his true sentiments. Then again, maybe he is just a victim of American social and media engineering like Makalani

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  • 1stAmendment

    rdarden, where were you in 11th grade US History? Asleep? Huntin? Celebrating your heritage?

    It is not about the “greatness” of Nat Turner. It is about a significant result that directly leads the nation to a Civil War.

    No history book or legitimate class celebrate the event – but it is a story that must be told. It is taught not just here but across the WORLD – the local librarians can tell you how many requests for information they get from Germany, Japan, and Great Britain on a weekly basis.

    Read the page in your child’s history book covering this information, and try being proud that Southampton County is in the news for something historically significant to the world.

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    • Liberty With Responsibility

      Maybe Blacksburg, Va., or the Columbine, Colorado communities should be equally as proud to have their communities to be a part of something so “historically significant to the world,” as you say? We maybe ought to get our economic development department to try to recruit such monumental tragedies as all these to happen here, to encourage some economic development? We need new things to be “proud” of here locally.

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      • 1stAmendment

        Lord have mercy. It is not “as I say.” Historians have said it. Over and over and over again.

        There is a great big differnce in a “rebellion” where the status quo is being turned around – as opposed to random victims chosen for self aggrandizment. And you know what? Neither Columbine nor Tech shootings are “historically significant to the world” as you suggest.

        Rebellion. Hmmm. American Revolution? Bacon’s Rebellion? Arab Spring? Iraq? Kiling of Osama and other Talibans? Just because it is a rebellion – maybe it is for justice.

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  • RWH

    Thank goodness they didn’t give Turner’s bible to Douglas Wilder because we all know how he cares about Black History artifacts.

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    • DryRain

      Really, I hope Wilder isn’t going to have any part of running the new Museum. That man stole artifacts from people who were willing to donate them for the cause. Did Wilder ever give back those items he took from that man in Suffolk?

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  • spider68

    I wonder how the donation of a bible to the Smithsonian Museum equate to spreading the “greatness”of Nat Turner.

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  • rdarden

    Pretty incredible that the story is still being told about how great Nat Turner was to the black people enslaved in Southampton County. While I totally beleive that slavery was absolutely wrong, I do beleive that Nat Turner is, and should be considered to be a cold-blooded, mass-murderer.

    No “hero” of any people kills innocent children and women to further their cause. If the actions of Nat Turner were to take place today, he would be in the class of people such as, Jeffery Dahmer (Serial Killer) , Dylan Kliebold (Columbine High-School) , Cho Seung-Hui (Va Tech Shooter) and there would be a groundswell of public outrage.

    Ive grown very tired of my children being educated on how Nat Turner was so great to his people. That is like trying to compare how great Hitler was to the Jewish people of Europe in World War II.

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