Probably the most significant uprising (after Jan 6? ) in American history. Lots of legends and stories here…
What is: Corner of Bride Street and High Street, Courtland, Virginia, Population 1295
What was: In 1831, a slave rebellion was led by Nat Turner. The slaves went from farm to farm in Southhampton County killing the white slave owners. Scores of blacks were murdered in reprisals throughout the South. The legacy of the biggest slave revolt in U.S. history still hangs over the sandy soil, blackwater cypress swamps and abandoned homes of the county. Kids grow up in rural Southampton County hearing that the mist creeping across the fields might be something unearthly. Old folks warn them not to sneak into abandoned houses, where rotting floors and walls are said to be stained with blood. This is a haunted landscape. (Source for some of this and a great story here.
Attacking farmhouses in the darkness and picking up supporters along the way, Turner and his rebels killed some 55-65 white men, women, and children over two days. They were eventually scattered by militia infantry, and some were rounded up and killed or put on trial. Turner escaped and hid out for two months mostly in a crude “cave” — a hole dug under a pile of wood — before surrendering on Oct. 30, 1831.
Turner was hung from a tree on Bride Street in what is now Courtland, VA. A short distance away, around the corner on High Street, is the ditch where Turner’s torso was said to have been tossed after he was decapitated (pictured here). Human remains have been found here. At some point, the county hopes to excavate. In the meantime, the spot is marked by tiny wire flags stuck in the weeds, the sort that might designate a property line or a cable route.
Many Black people who had not participated were also persecuted in the frenzy. Months after the insurrection, the Virginia legislature narrowly rejected a measure for gradual emancipation that would have followed the lead of the North. Instead, pointing to Turner’s intelligence and education as a major cause of the revolt, measures were passed in Virginia and other states in the South that made it unlawful to teach enslaved people and free African Americans how to read or write.
Lonnie Bunch, previously director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, said, “The Nat Turner rebellion is probably the most significant uprising in American history.”