Black Hero Nat Turner, His Legacy, and the Memory of Slave History

Nat Turner

More than two centuries ago, black hero Nat Turner was born on this day.  Yet, as Elisa Bordin and Anna Scacchi note in their groundbreaking new book, Transatlantic Memories of Slavery: Reimagining the Past, Changing the Future that

“Unlike other black enslaved heroes and fighters against slavery, whose monuments can be found all over the other Americas, there is yet to be a statue of Nat Turner to be erected and his memory continues to be deeply antagonistic, while representations of Abraham Lincoln as the Great Emancipator proliferate. However, reinforcing how attitudes about the slave past are indeed changing, Nat Turner’s figure appears to be enjoying what could be seen as a revival of sorts in spite of the lack of a statue of him. A graphic novel, Kyle Baker’s Nat Turner (2008), and two Christian literature novels, Sharon Ewell Foster’s The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part One: The Witnesses (2011) and The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part Two: The Testimony (2012), have been recently published, and there are a number of film projects underway. As filmmaker Kenya Cagle notes in the last chapter, in which he describes his approach to portraying Nat Turner in the screenplay he published in 2013 and his own film project, “in some segments of the black community Nat Turner is equivalent to a rock star” (243). The shift from slavehood as victimhood to slaves as agents in the construction of their lives and countries is indeed fundamental in the pedagogy of new generations, …” (p. 13)

Transatlantic Memories of Slavery also includes an interview with Kenya Cagle who discusses perspectives on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained and the film’s pop vision of the slave past. Cagle also talks about this meetings with Nat Turner’s family, including including his great, great, great grandson Bruce L. Turner (who is a historian).

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Cambria Press Publication – Transatlantic Memories of Slavery: Reimagining the Past, Changing the Future

This is an important book for for those interested in African American, American, and Latin American studies and working across literature, cinema, visual arts, and public culture. It will also be useful to public official and civil servants interested in the question of slavery and its present memory.

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