Nat Turner: A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory

Front Cover
Kenneth S. Greenberg
OUP USA, 2003 - History - 289 pages
Nat Turner's name rings through American history with a force all its own. Leader of the most important slave rebellion on these shores, variously viewed as a murderer of unarmed women and children, an inspired religious leader, a fanatic—this puzzling figure represents all the terrible complexities of American slavery. And yet we do not know what he looked like, where he is buried, or even whether Nat Turner was his real name. In Nat Turner: A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory, Kenneth S. Greenberg gathers twelve distinguished scholars to offer provocative new insight into the man, his rebellion, and his time, and his place in history. The historians here explore Turner's slave community, discussing the support for his uprising as well as the religious and literary context of his movement. They examine the place of women in his insurrection, and its far-reaching consequences (including an extraordinary 1832 Virginia debate about ridding the state of slavery). Here are discussions of Turner's religious visions—the instructions he received from God to kill all of his white oppressors. Louis Masur places him against the backdrop of the nation's sectional crisis, and Douglas Egerton puts his revolt in the context of rebellions across the Americas. We trace Turner's passage through American memory through fascinating interviews with William Styron on his landmark novel, The Confessions of Nat Turner, and with Dr. Alvin Poussaint, one of the "ten black writers" of the 1960s who bitterly attacked Styron's vision of Turner. Finally, we follow Nat Turner into the world of Hollywood. Nat Turner has always been controversial, an emblem of the searing wound of slavery in American life. This book offers a clear-eyed look at one of the best known and least understood figures in our history.

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Nat Turner: a slave rebellion in history and memory

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From the moment of the rebellion he led in 1831 that killed almost 60 whites, terrorized Southampton County, VA, and shook slaveholders everywhere, to the many evocations of him and his bloody course ... Read full review

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Selected pages


Name Face Body
The Construction of The Confessions of Nat Turner
The Event
Covenant in Jerusalem
Symptoms of Liberty and Blackhead Signposts David Walker and Nat Turner
A Prophet in His Own Land Support for Nat Turner and His Rebellion within Southamptons Black Community
Nat Turner and Sectional Crisis
What Happened in This Place? In Search of the Female Slave in the Nat Turner Slave Insurrection
Styrons Choice A Meditation on History Literature and Moral Imperatives
Interview with William Styron
Interview with Alvin F Poussaint MD
Nat Turner in Hollywood

Reading Revelation and Rebellion The Textual Communities of Gabriel Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner
Nat Turner in a Hemispheric Context

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About the author (2003)

Kenneth Greenberg is Distinguished Professor and Chair of the History Department at Suffolk University. His books include Masters and Statesmen: The Political Culture of American Slavery and Honor and Slavery: Lies, Duels, Noses, Masks, Dressing as a Woman, Gifts, Strangers, Humanitarianism, Death,
Slave Rebellions, the Proslavery Argument, Baseball, Hunting and Gambling in the Old South. He is the editor of The Confessions of Nat Turner.