“What Happened in This Place?”
In Search of the Female Slave in the Nat Turner Slave Insurrection
MARY KEMP DAVIS
As she [Mrs. Barrow] fled[,] a negro girl, named Lucy, seized her with the determination of holding her for the rebels, but “Aunt” Easter came to the aid of her mistress and fled with her to the woods.
Martha Waller was concealed by the nurse under the large apron, but the child would not endure the reckless destruction of furniture, so [she] arose and threatened to tell her father. One of the negroes seized her and dashed her to death against the ground.
William Sidney Drewry, The Southampton Insurrection1
The trial records compiled by Henry Irving Tragle in The Southampton Slave Revolt of 1831: A Compilation of Source Material do not mention a single female slave who rode with Nat Turner and his men as they swept through lower Southampton County, Virginia, 22–23 August 1831. They do hint that the wife of a free black was perhaps a coconspirator since she was seen with the insurgents at one site. This unnamed woman was with her husband, Billy Artist, when he and other insurgents stopped by a slaveholder's home on Tuesday, 23 August. Like other rebels, Artist was probably on horseback, and his wife, whether free or enslaved, may have been riding a horse as well. No further information is given about this shadowy woman, such as what she said or did at the scene—if anything. Artist was jailed for conspiracy and seems to have committed suicide while incarcerated; his wife's fate is unrecorded. 2
The mystery surrounding Billy Artist's wife is emblematic of the mystery surrounding all of the female slaves who lived in lower Southampton