Trial Records

After the revolt had been suppressed, alleged slave conspirators in Southampton County appeared before the county justices of the peace in a Court of Oyer and Terminer, a special court convened to try enslaved people accused of felony crimes. The trials continued from August 31 through November 21. Free black defendants were held over for trial until April 1832, when they appeared before the Southampton County Superior Court.

The testimony in these court records provides important information about what happened during the insurrection in Southampton County. It paints a picture of the roles various rebels, as well as white and black witnesses, played as the revolt unfolded.

Other counties in Virginia and North Carolina also held trials for accused insurrectionists during the last four months of 1831. The records from these proceedings provide clues about whether prior knowledge about the revolt extended beyond Southampton County.

The trial records transcribed here are listed by the date on which sentence was passed on the defendant. Some trials were held over for multiple days; all phases of the proceedings against a defendant are included here in that defendant’s full record.

In the transcriptions, the name of the defendant appears in bold. Also in bold are the names of the defendant’s owner, or former owner; the attorney for the commonwealth; the defense attorney; and all witnesses listed in the record who testified in the case. This formatting is designed to highlight the individuals involved in the trials. Except for enslaved people, the names in bold are linked to the census record in which he or she appeared. This formatting did not appear in the original court record. 

For scanned images of the Southampton County Oyer and Terminer Trials, see the Brantley Association of America Southampton Project, Court Minute Books, 1830-1835