article by Justin Fornal via news.nationalgeographic.com
PUBLISHED OCTOBER 7, 2016: A small group gathered today in a hotel suite on the outskirts of Gary, Indiana. The nine formally-dressed guests joined hands while standing around a table containing only a white box. Reverend John Jackson of Trinity United Church of Christ started the prayer. “Eternal God, we are gathered here today to honor you, and to honor the legendary liberator, emancipator of the enslaved, and revolutionary of righteous, the Reverend Nathaniel Turner.”
The gathering’s 83-year-old host, Richard Gordon Hatcher, who served as Gary’s mayor from 1968 to 1987, planned the event at which a skull alleged to be Turner’s was turned over to his descendants. The guests of honor, Shannon Batton Aguirre and Shelly Lucas Wood, both great-great-great-great granddaughters of Turner, flew in from Washington D.C. to accept the remains.
In 1831, after receiving what he believed to be prophecies from God, Nat Turner led the bloodiest slave revolt in American history. Accompanied by a small army of his brethren, the group fought their way through the countryside of Southampton County, Virginia, with hopes of ending the scourge of slavery. When the bloodletting ended, more than 55 whites lay dead.
The local militia quelled the uprising within 48 hours, but Turner managed to elude his pursuers. After two months he was captured, tried, and on November 11th, he was hanged from a tree in the town of Jerusalem, now Courtland, Virginia. It is here that the facts surrounding Turner end and speculation and lore begin. (Read about Turner’s complex legacy.)
Many stories have circulated about the fate of Turner’s remains after his hanging. Several versions claim that he was flayed, quartered, and decapitated before his torso was finally buried in the local pauper’s cemetery. His skull and brain were then sent away for study.
During the recent filming of the National Geographic Studios documentary Rise Up: The Legacy of Nat Turner, there were frequent discussions with descendants and historians about the fate of Turner’s remains. Several had heard reports or read newspaper articles stating that the skull had been donated to former mayor Hatcher at a 2002 charity gala for the Civil Rights Hall of Fame, a museum project Hatcher has long championed.
To read full article, go to: After 185 Years, Nat Turner’s Alleged Skull Returned to Family