Turner Trail still a great idea

Published 8:38 am Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Virginia General Assembly’s denial of funding for the Southampton County Historical Society’s Nat Turner Trail project, while disappointing, was not surprising.

Funding of special projects for private groups like the Historical Society is scarce at best during financially austere times. We take this opportunity to commend the Historical Society, led by President Lynda Updike, for its efforts on behalf of this project. We predict, as does Updike, that the project will ultimately receive the funding it needs — and deserves — to get off the ground.

Tourism has long been an economic staple for Virginia. From Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg to Civil War battlefields to the countless other historical treasures scattered across the state, Virginia is a living, breathing history book for those who spend much of their time — and money — traveling the country visiting locations of historical significance.

The Nat Turner Insurrection, while a bloody and unpleasant chapter in our nation’s history, plays a significant role when we tell the story of slavery and how it shaped the course of this country. So, too, does the U.S. Supreme Court’s famous “Dred Scott Decision” of 1857. Recent investigation suggests that Southampton County may very well be the place of Dred Scott’s birth.

Southampton County is an ideal destination for those who are interested in retracing the footprints of history. And while the enslavement of human beings and the violent episodes that came as a result of such practices is certainly not an aspect of our past we would choose to celebrate, it is an issue of significant historical relevance and a part of our past from which much can be learned.

As this community continues to make strides toward economic rediscovery, tourism, specifically historical tourism, should be an obvious part of the equation. The Nat Turner Trail is a good start.