County seeks Nat Turner artifacts

Published 11:14 am Friday, April 29, 2016

In preparation for a television program, a call has gone out for anyone with artifacts and documents related to Southampton County’s own Nat Turner.

Media interest in Nate Parker’s film “The Birth of a Nation” has been growing ever since the movie previewed at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. That film is about Turner and his insurrection of 1831.

According to Rick Francis, himself a descendant of the one of survivors of the rebellion, he was contacted about a month ago by two producers of “60 Minutes,” who wanted to visit the area for a potential story on the television news program.

During the tour, Francis said, he was told by the program researchers that broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper would host a segment on the show the weekend before the movie is released on Oct. 6.

A film crew is anticipated to visit sometime late in May or early June to take pictures of sites related to Turner. Cooper and Parker are also expected to later visit the Southampton County Courthouse to see documents and film those along with any available artifacts.

During the county’s bicentennial celebration in 1949, several objects related to Turner were reportedly then on display. Francis said these included Catherine Whitehead’s bloody dress, Will’s axe and wood that Turner notched to keep track of the days while in hiding. He hopes that whoever has these and other artifacts in their possession will donate them for the program.

Francis, who is both the clerk of court and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society, said that “National Geographic” has also contacted him about doing a feature on the event. Call him at 653-2200 if you have related artifacts, documents or information.