Confessions of Nat Turner

The Confessions of Nat Turner, The Leader of the Late Insurrection in South Hampton, VA.

Nat Turner Rebellion

Nat TurnerPerhaps no other moment in history crystallized the fears of slave owners in the South like the 1831 slave insurrection led by Nat Turner in South Hampton, Virginia. During a span of approximately thirty-six hours, on August 21-22, a band of slaves murdered over 50 unsuspecting whites (Goldman). The exact number of whites killed remains unsubstantiated—various sources claim anywhere from 50 to 65. Almost all of those involved (or suspected of involvement) in the insurrection were put to death, including Nat Turner, who was the last known conspirator to be captured. Following his discovery, capture, and arrest over two months after the revolt, Turner was interviewed in his jail cell by Thomas Ruffin Gray, a wealthy South Hampton lawyer and slave owner (French). The resulting extended essay (summarized below), “The Confessions of Nat Turner, The Leader of the Late Insurrection in South Hampton, VA.,” was used against Turner during his trial. The repercussions of the rebellion in the South were severe: many slaves who had no involvement in the rebellion were murdered out of suspicion or revenge.

William StyronWilliam Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner appeared in October 1967 and won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction in 1968. The novel is based on the true story of a violent slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831, led by a divinely inspired preacher and slave, Nat Turner, whose actual jail-cell “confession” had long been part of the historical record.

With its excruciating violence and its merciless depictions of the degradations and humiliations of slavery, Confessions proved to be as much an “event” as it was a work of literature. It was no doubt the first experience that millions of readers had had with the sickening stories of America’s “peculiar institution.” Surely no history book had ever provided such a visceral narrative, and popular fiction had also steered clear of slavery, with a few notable exceptions, such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, published more than 125 years earlier.

Styron’s novel attracted at first the praise of mainstream white critics as well as that of some black writers, notably James Baldwin (a personal friend of Styron’s) and Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man. Baldwin wrote of Styron: “He has begun the common history–ours.”

But the good will began to unravel in the summer of 1968, with the publication of William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, a collection of essays by black historians and other intellectuals. The writers attacked Styron for what they deemed historical inaccuracy and “a vile racist imagination,” but most were simply outraged at the presumptuousness: that a white writer could dare to write so intimately of the black experience. In one of the most measured of the essays, historian (and associate of Dr. King) Vincent Harding takes issue, strongly, with Baldwin’s claim about Styron’s writing “our common history.”

Harding writes:

Surely it is nothing of the kind. Styron has done nothing less (and nothing more) than create another chapter in our long and common agony. He has done it because we have allowed it, and we who are black must be men enough to admit that bitter fact. There can be no common history until we have first fleshed out the lineaments of our own, for no one else can speak out of the bittersweet bowels of our blackness. Only then will we capture Nat Turner from the hands of those who seem to think that entrance into black skin is achieved as easily as Styron-Turner’s penetration of invisible white flesh.

Confessions of Nat Turner

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20th Century Slavery in Mississippi and Louisiana

If you thought the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in 1863 or after the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, you were wrong. Slavery in some parts of the rural south continued; even up to the mid 1960’s.

Many African American were held in peonage throughout the deep south. Under peonage they could not leave the plantations or farms. Their lives were threatened, some were murder for trying to leave. Yes, some may not believe that this could be possible in the 20th century. Throughout the state of Mississippi, in many deep rural area there was no way out for thousand who were trapped in this new slavery called peonage.

Recommended Reading

The Shadow of Slavery: Peonage in the South, 1901-1969

Check out customer reviewsNew:$55.91 (12)New:$19.95 (23) Author:Pete R. DanielBinding:Paperback

Manufacturer:University of Illinois Press

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Neo-slavery in the American South – New America Media

http://newamericamedia.org Tue, 20 Jul 2010 19:10:00 GMT

Ms. Miller, whose life as a modern slave in Mississippi and Louisiana has been documented, escaped captivity in 1961. The problem exists today, she declares. Ms. Miller, who says she was raped by a slave master beginning

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Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice

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Author:David M. OshinskyBinding:Paperback

Manufacturer:Free Press

The brutal conditions and inhuman treatment of African-Americans in Southern prisons has been immortalized in blues songs and in such movies as Cool Hand Luke. Now, drawing on police and prison records and oral histories, David M. Oshinsky presents a …

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To learn more about slavery, visit our sister site, www.blackhistorymonth2014.com

The Five Negro Presidents: According to what White People Said They Were

Did You Know that the U.S. has had Five Black Presidents? – Black

http://blacktalkradionetwork.com Thu, 28 Aug 2008 07:00:00 GMT

Author J.A. Rogers published a book in 1965 titled The 5 Negro Presidents: According to What White People Said They Were. This was a pamphlet sized book with the image of 29th President Warren G. Harding and his 

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FIVE BLACK PRESIDENTS Joel A. Rogers and Dr. Auset Bakhufu have both written books documenting that at least five former presidents of the United States had …

The Five Negro Presidents: According to what White People Said They Were by Rogers, J. A. published by Helga Rogers Paperback

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Joel Augustus Rogers

Joel Augustus Rogers (September 6, 1880 March 26, 1966) was a Jamaican-American … and the pamphlet Five Negro presidents, all of which deal …

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Many Rivers To Cross Review

I’m following this series on PBS. Exciting, moving and informative. It’s an excellent documentary on the plight of African American people in America… past and present.

Watch the trailer and then check to find out if it is available in your area.

I also included information about the book below.

Watch full-length episodes at http://video.pbs.org/program/african-americans-many-rivers-cross/?utm_source=youtube&utm_medium=pbsofficial&utm_campaign=aarc_c…

The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross is the companion book to the six-part, six hour documentary of the same name, airing on national, primetime public television in the fall of 2013. The series is the first to air since 1968 that chronicles t …

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Author:Henry Louis Gates,Donald Yacovone

Binding:Hardcover

Manufacturer:SmileyBooks

African American Book Reviews – 50 Titles

50 Titles For February and Beyond

I found this list of 50 Titles (link below) that are worth taking a look at. The books are categorized neatly:

  • History
  • Society
  • The Arts
  • Poetry
  • Fiction
  • The Personal
  • The Political and,
  • Old Fashioned Advice

African American Experiences: 50 Titles for February 2014, Black

http://reviews.libraryjournal.com Thu, 31 Oct 2013 16:07:30 GMT

Below are some books to consider for this year’s celebration and beyond. Any excuse to dig into these titles is a good one: they deserve attention all year long. HISTORY. little African American Experiences: 50 Titles for February 2014, Sheehan-Dean’s four-volume series comes to a close with this installment, which covers the Civil War from March 1864 to June 1865 through primary source materials, including writing from Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and 

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http://www.EducationBookMix.com This is the summary of The African-American Atlas: Black History and Culture–An Illustrated Reference by Mark T. Mattson, Mo…

The African-American Atlas: Black History and Culture–An Illustrated Reference

http://www.EducationBookMix.com This is the summary of African American Almanac: Day-by-day Black History by Leon Thomas Ross, Kenneth A. Mimms.

African American Almanac: Day-by-day Black History

History Book Review: The Nubian Pharaohs: Black Kings on the Nile by Dominique Valbelle, Charles …

http://www.HistoryBookMix.com This is the summary of The Nubian Pharaohs: Black Kings on the Nile by Dominique Valbelle, Charles Bonnet.

The Nubian Pharaohs: Black Kings on the Nile

Crafts Book Review: Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Arou…

http://www.CraftsBookMix.com This is the summary of Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington, D.C. by Jesse…

Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington, D.C.

Hope you enjoyed these reviews and will continue to build your library of black history resources.