ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



The skull will grace a high-tech institution recognizing the civil rights movement



Former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher

Plans to Display Nat Turner’s Skull

according to Donna Britt

Columnist Washington Post



Sometimes it is near unbelievable that some of us can be so coarse — culturally and politically backward.  This morning, my attention was brought to a piece of inane writing published by Donna Britt, Columnist for the  Washington Post (December 6, 2002). In this Metro column, we have  the strangest yoking together of two items — a sexual come-on and the skull of Nathaniel Turner (that is, sex, death, and desecration). But here’s the chain and ball of Ms. Britt’s piece:


Richard Hatcher, Gary’s mayor when I graduated from West Side High School, had received slave revolt leader Nat Turner’s skull as a donation to his long-planned Civil Rights Hall of Fame in my home town. . . . Mayor Hatcher was stunned when Indiana NAACP President Franklin Breckenridge offered to donate Turner’s skull, which he’d acquired, to the planned, $10 million institution for which more than $4 million has been collected, some by an October benefit performance by Bill Cosby.

“I said, ‘Frank, no one’s going to believe it’s Turner’s skull,’ ” Hatcher recalls. But Breckenridge had authentication, which Hatcher says he has verified with an Indiana University historian.

The skull will grace a high-tech institution that recognizes contributors to the civil rights movement and educates youngsters “who have no real understanding or memory of it,” Hatcher says. “Thousands who never got on television made very important contributions.

“Artifacts of the movement are being lost every day.”

I found the story incredible — a joke. I am trying now to get to the bottom of it. If true it is indeed a historical travesty. We have just had a century-old outrage committed by France come to an end by the French government sending to South Africa the body parts and skeleton of Sara Baartman, the so-called Hottentot Venus, to receive a proper burial. And now Richard Hatcher — the former mayor of Gary, Indiana (the first black mayor of that city), according to Ms. Britt, will perpetuate an act first committed by Southampton whites in 1831, desecrating a human being, by treating Turner’s remains as an “artifact” and thereby placing Turner’s body on display for civil rights gawkers to make money!

It is just difficult for me to believe this story true. And worse, I find it disturbing that Ms. Britt would use such language, like the “skull will grace a high-tech institution.” But if Mr. Hatcher has indeed received and has authenticated the skull, he should make haste to return it to Southampton County, Virginia for the proper burial that Turner did not receive in 1831 because of racist slaveholders and their sympathizers. I am sure he does not want to be counted among those purveyors of black flesh — profiteers of black bodies.

Someone needs to talk to Hatcher and pull his coat-tail and set him aright. I advise Jesse Jackson and Bill Cosby to speak to their friend for whom they have raised money to support Hatcher’s pet project of a civil rights hall of fame and bid him to alter his plans. If Mr. Hatcher wants to set up a memorial, he should facilitate one being established in Southampton, Virginia. Turner’s remains should be finally respectfully laid to rest.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 28 June 2008



Home   Nathaniel Turner Page  Christian Martyrdom in Southampton Lynching Index 

Related files:  Hatcher’s Skull Letter    Richard Hatcher’s  Skull    Hatcher Hampered By Post Tribune  Acts of Desecration and Demystification