Department of Historic Resources
For Immediate Release
December 8, 2021
Contact: Randy Jones, DHR
—Blackhead Signpost Road was so named after the severed head of an enslaved man was set on a post and left to decay after Nat Turner’s revolt—
—Marker text below—
RICHMOND – This weekend sponsors will dedicate a state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources that highlights one legacy of enslaved preacher Nat Turner’s revolt in Southampton County, when after the uprising the severed head of a Black man was displayed on a post and left to decay, giving rise to the name of Blackhead Signpost Road, which was recently renamed.
The marker will be dedicated during a public ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 11, beginning at 10 a.m., at Shiloh Baptist Church, located at 30188 Shiloh Road, Boykins (23827). After the formal ceremony, attendees will visit the marker, located at the intersection of Route 35 and Meherrin Road in Courtland, to unveil the sign.
Event speakers will include Carl Faison, of the Southampton Co. Board of Supervisors; Chief Walt “Red Hawk” Brown of the Cheroenhaka (Nottoway) Indian Tribe of Southampton Co.; Renna Ebron, of Lambda Psi Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority; Timothy Mays, of Franklin-Southampton Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity; and former chair of the Va. Board of Historic Resources Dr. Colita Nichols Fairfax. Additionally, Sylvia Copeland, from the Office of Congressman Donald McEachin, will read a message from Rep. McEachin.
Following Nat Turner’s revolt in August 1831, “white residents and militias retaliated by murdering an indeterminable number of African Americans,” according to the marker. At the intersection where the marker is located, the severed head of a Black man, who may have been an enslaved blacksmith named Alfred—who was not implicated in any revolt killings—was placed on a post “to terrorize others and deter future uprisings against slavery,” the marker states.
In 2021, the name was changed to Signpost Road.
The marker was approved for manufacture and installation earlier this year by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which is authorized to designate new state historical markers. The marker’s manufacturing costs were covered by its sponsor, Citizens Create Change.
Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority.
[PLEASE NOTE: DHR markers are erected not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, markers are not memorials.]
Text of marker:
Blackhead Signpost Road
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.
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Originally posted: December 8, 2021
Updated: December 8, 2021