Memory

 

In the minds of black and white Americans, Nat Turner quickly emerged as more than simply a man who had led a slave rebellion. Even before he was captured and executed, Nat Turner became regarded as a powerful symbol – a lightning rod for the hopes and fears of individuals on different sides of the slavery issue. For some, Nat Turner was a symbol of all that was wrong with the slave system and of the potential for black retaliation and liberation. For others, Nat Turner embodied the dark savagery of African Americans and slaveholders’ often repressed fears that that savagery would lead to their destruction.

 

For nearly two centuries, Americans have represented and re-represented Nat Turner in ways that directly reflect their views on slavery and race. Nat Turner has appeared in popular culture in guises as far-ranging as a desperate fanatic, a manipulative opportunist, and a worthy hero. At times, depictions of the rebel leader have caused widespread controversy, as with the publication of William Styron’s novel The Confessions of Nat Turner in 1967. Into the present century, authors and artists continue to depict this divisive historical figure in provocative ways, as Kyle Baker’s 2008 graphic novel Nat Turner demonstrates. The first-ever feature film about Turner and the rebellion, produced by and starring Nate Parker, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2016 and was released in theaters in October of the same year.

Newspaper Articles, 1861 - 1931

William Wells Brown, The Black Man, Book, 1863

Mrs. Fannie Berry, WPA Narrative, 1937

WPA, The Negro in Virginia, 1940

Robert Hayden, The Ballad of Nat Turner, 1962

Frances Lawrence Webb, Sketches of Southampton County, 1963

Daniel Panger, Ol’ Prophet Nat, Novel, 1967

Reviews of William Styron's Confessions of Nat Turner, 1967, and Ten Black Writers Respond, 1968

Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property, Documentary Film, 2003

Kyle Baker, Nat Turner, Graphic Novel, 2008

Jasiri, New Nat Turners, Song, July 2016

The Birth of a Nation, Feature Film, 2016

Jabari Asim, Brother Nat: Rise. Revolt. Redemption, Musical, 2018

Rick Francis Bus Tour

Nathan Alan Davis, Nat Turner in Jerusalem, Play, 2019

R.J. Phillips Band, "Nat Turner," Song, 2019

Nat Turner Slave Rebellion Observance, Newark, New Jersey, 2019

RELICS

"'The Haunted Houses': Legacy of Nat Turner's Slave Rebellion Lingers, But Reminders Are Disappearing," Washington Post, April 30, 2019