Thomas Ruffin Gray (1800 – ?) was an attorney who represented several enslaved people during the trials in the wake of Nat Turner's slave rebellion.
Thomas Ruffin Gray was born in 1800 in Southampton County, Virginia to Thomas and Ann Cooke Brewer Gray. His father was very wealthy paying the second-highest tax bill in Southampton with 2,408 acres of land and fifty-seven slaves. He became wealth along with his father, holding twenty-three taxable slaves, being a justice of peace, and becoming a founding member of the Jerusalem Jockey Club. He even acquired his deceased brother Robert’s property, raising his property holdings to eight hundred acres. In 1831, his downfall began as he had no more taxable slaves or horses. In October 1830, he got certified to become an attorney and in December was admitted to practice in court.
Gray was a lawyer. Although he is commonly thought of as Nat Turner's lawyer, James Strange French is the person listed in official records as Turner's lawyer.Neither assertion is correct: William C. Parker was assigned by the court to represent Nat. Though educated in law at William and Mary early in life, he had only recently begun practicing law. There is some speculation that he had lost much of his property through gambling and that is what caused him to begin practicing law, which appears to be confirmed in a pamphlet Gray prepared discussing a dispute with a Southampton County physician, Orris A. Browne. There is also recent speculation on Gray's relationship with a well-known gambler in Virginia.
Gray published The Confessions of Nat Turner, which purports to be Turner's confession and account of his life leading up the rebellion, as well as an account of Turner's motives and actions during the rebellion. [ dead link ]
In the 1960s, William Styron published a fictional and controversial account of the Nat Turner rebellion using the same title as Gray's pamphlet, The Confessions of Nat Turner .
A slave rebellion is an armed uprising by enslaved people, as a way of fighting for their freedom. Rebellions of enslaved people have occurred in nearly all societies that practice slavery or have practiced slavery in the past. A desire for freedom and the dream of successful rebellion is often the greatest object of song, art, and culture amongst the enslaved population. Many of the events, however, are often violently opposed and suppressed by slaveholders.
Southampton County is a county located on the southern border of the Commonwealth of Virginia. North Carolina is to the south. As of the 2010 census, the population was 18,570. Its county seat is Courtland.
Courtland is an incorporated town in Southampton County, Virginia, United States. The population was 1,284 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Southampton County.
William Clark Styron Jr. was an American novelist and essayist who won major literary awards for his work.
John Andrews Murrell, the "Great Western Land Pirate" also known as John A. Murrell and commonly spelled as Murel and Murrel, was a bandit and criminal operating in the United States, along the Mississippi River, in the 19th century. Murrell had his first criminal conviction, for horse theft, as a teenager and was branded with an "HT", flogged, and sentenced to six years in prison. He was released in 1829. Murrell was convicted a second and final time, for the crime of slave stealing, in the Circuit Court of Madison County, Tennessee, and incarcerated in the Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville from 1834 to 1844.
Edmund Ruffin, III was a wealthy Virginia planter who served in the Virginia Senate from 1823 to 1827. In the last three decades before the American Civil War, his pro-slavery writings received more attention than his agricultural work. Ruffin, a slaveholder, staunchly advocated states' rights and slavery, arguing for secession years before the Civil War, and became a political activist with the so-called Fire-Eaters. Ruffin is given credit for "firing the first shot of the war" at the Battle of Fort Sumter in April 1861 and fought as a Confederate soldier despite his advanced age. When the war ended in Southern defeat in 1865, he committed suicide rather than submit to "Yankee rule."
The Confessions of Nat Turner is a 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by American writer William Styron. Presented as a first-person narrative by historical figure Nat Turner, the novel concerns the slave revolt in Virginia in 1831, but does not always depict the events accurately. It is based on The Confessions of Nat Turner: The Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Virginia, a first-hand account of Turner's confessions published by a local lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray, in 1831.
Events from the year 1831 in the United States.
Nat Turner's Rebellion, also known as the Southampton Insurrection, was a rebellion of enslaved Virginians that took place in Southampton County, Virginia, in August 1831, led by Nat Turner. The rebels killed between 55 and 65 people, at least 51 of whom were White. The rebellion was effectively suppressed within a few days, at Belmont Plantation on the morning of August 23, but Turner survived in hiding for more than two months afterwards.
Thomas Roderick Dew (1802–1846) was a professor at and then president of The College of William & Mary. He was an influential pro-slavery advocate.
James Mercer Garnett was a nineteenth-century politician and planter from Virginia, who served two terms in the United States House of Representatives from 1805 to 1809, and separate terms in the Virginia House of Delegates representing Essex County, Virginia.
James Trezvant was a U.S. Representative from Virginia.
Anti-literacy laws in many slave states before and during the American Civil War affected slaves, freedmen, and in some cases all people of color. Some laws arose from concerns that literate slaves could forge the documents required to escape to a free state. According to William M. Banks, "Many slaves who learned to write did indeed achieve freedom by this method. The wanted posters for runaways often mentioned whether the escapee could write." Anti-literacy laws also arose from fears of slave insurrection, particularly around the time of abolitionist David Walker's 1829 publication of Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, which openly advocated rebellion, and Nat Turner's slave rebellion of 1831.
William H. Brodnax, was a nineteenth-century American militia Brigadier General and American politician from Virginia.
James Strange French (1807-1886) was a lawyer, novelist, and later hotel keeper.
Belmont is a historic plantation house where Nat Turner's slave rebellion took place. Located near Capron, Southampton County, Virginia, it was built about 1790 and is a 1+1⁄2-story, frame dwelling sheathed in weatherboard. It has a side gable roof with dormers and sits on a brick foundation. It has a single pile, central-hall plan and features a Chinese lattice railing on the second story. Also on the property are a contributing smokehouse and office. At Belmont, on the morning of August 23, 1831, Nat Turner's slave rebellion was effectively suppressed.
Rebecca Vaughan House is a historic home and farm located at Courtland, Southampton County, Virginia. It was built about 1800, and is a 1+1⁄2-story, three bay, four room, frame dwelling. It has a pressed metal shingle gable roof with five dormers. The house was moved to its present site in 2004, and is located on the grounds of the Southampton Agriculture & Forestry Museum and Heritage Village, administered by the Southampton Historical Society. The house was the last house during the Nat Turner's slave rebellion of August 21 through 23, 1831, at which Nat Turner and his followers killed residents during their journey through the southwestern portion of Southampton County. Moved from its original location, the house has been restored.
Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property is a 2003 documentary film about Nat Turner co-written and directed by Charles Burnett.
Cherry Turner was an enslaved American Indian in Southampton, Virginia in the early 1800s. She was the wife of slave activist, Nat Turner.
NegroHead Road is a place outside Wilmington, North Carolina with similar displays in other Southern towns, where body parts of slaves or blacks were displayed in consequence of a purported crime. It is modeled after displays like Blackhead Signpost Road in Southampton County, Virginia. It was here, in 1831, where the head of a slave, Alfred, was displayed on a stake for being part of Nat Turner's slave rebellion, as a warning for any future rebels.