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Nat Turner’s Bible Donated to National Museum of African-American History and Culture

Nat Turner had this Bible with him as he led a bloody slave revolt through South Hampton Virginia County in 1831. Photo courtesy of the NMAAHC.

Washington D.C.’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture is acquiring yet another important piece of Black history, thanks to the generosity of a Virginia Beach woman.

The Bible of preacher Nat Turner is now on display at the popular history museum after Wendy Porter, an instructor at Old Dominion University, donated it to NMAAHC curators, local Virginia station ABC 8 News reported. Porter said her family has a longstanding history with Turner, who led a bloody slave rebellion through South Hampton County, Virginia, in 1831. His life story was the subject of the 2016 Oscar-nominated film “The Birth of a Nation,” written and produced by Norfolk native Nate Parker.

“We have a family church in Southampton County,” Porter told the news station. “Nat Turner was baptized on Person’s Mill Pond, which is on the property of our church. “When [he] and his followers came to the house to kill my stepfather’s [Maurice Person] great-great-grandmother, the slaves in the house hid her.”

Over the course of two days, Turner and his followers killed an estimated 60 whites, including men, women and children, according to the Smithsonian. The Virginia Beach woman explained that when Turner was discovered on her family’s land, he had his Bible in hand. After his trial and subsequent hanging, the holy book was no longer needed as evidence and was returned to Porter’s family. Since then, she said the Bible has been passed down again and again.

While donating the artifact to the NMAACH felt like giving up a piece of her family’s history, Porter said she and her relatives are happy to know that it finally has a forever home.

“It’s been in the family since 1912 and was kept on top of a piano, then a closet, then a safe deposit box,” Mark Person, a relative of Porter’s, told The New York Times. “I look at it as symbolic … as a way of reconciliation. We have a lot of turmoil in the country and the Bible is still significant. People have their beliefs and somehow that comes out on top, even after all the struggles.”

“I met with the Turner family two or three years ago and it was a very positive experience,” he continued. “They said, ‘The Bible is in the right place’ [in regards to the donation] and that solidified it. We knew in the family that it was priceless.”

ABC 8 News reported that Porter, faculty members and students from ODU are planning to visit the museum on Feb. 18 in honor of Black History Month.

“I think they’ll be even more inspired knowing that history doesn’t just come from other places, history comes from Norfolk or Hampton, Virginia,” trip coordinator Jasmine Omorogbe said.

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