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New state historical highway marker approved for Southampton

Fifteen of 17 proposed historical markers recently approved for manufacture recall people, places or events in Virginia’s African American history, including five topics submitted by students who participated in Gov. Ralph Northam’s Black History Marker contest in February. 

A Department of Historic Resources news release added that one of these 15 markers approved will be located in Southampton County. 

One of two signs that will recall antebellum-era places is proposed to be located at the intersection of Route 658 and Route 35 (Meherrin Road) in the county. The sign is sponsored by Citizens for Change.

The marker will highlight what used to be called Blackhead Signpost Road. Following is the full text of the marker:

“In Aug. 1831, following the revolt led by enslaved preacher Nat Turner, white residents and militias retaliated by murdering an indeterminable number of African Americans — some involved in the revolt, some not — in Southampton County and elsewhere. At this intersection, where Turner’s force had turned toward Jerusalem (now Courtland), the severed head of a black man was displayed on a post and left to decay to terrorize others and deter future uprisings against slavery. The beheaded man may have been Alfred, an enslaved blacksmith who, though not implicated in any revolt killings, was slain by militia near here. The name of this road was changed from Blackhead Signpost to Signpost in 2021.”

After approval by the Board of Historic Resources, it can take upwards of three months or more before a new marker is ready for installation. The marker’s sponsor covers the required $1,770 manufacturing expenses for a new sign.

Virginia’s historical highway marker program began in 1927 with installation of the first markers along U.S. 1. It is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 state markers, mostly maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), except in those localities outside of VDOT’s authority.