Nat Turner – Differing Views of History
A look at various different sources which covered the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner and how each one represents different angles of the truth.
This paper is about the Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, known as the only successful such revolution. It deals extensively with William Styron’s novel, “Confessions of Nat Turner,” comparing it to the primary source written by Thomas Gray, of the same name. It also discusses numerous newspaper accounts of the event, analyzing the evolving story, and the different biases in reporting. The paper examines critiques of Styron’s novel, Ten Black Writers respond…, and Styron’s defenses. Finally, the paper compares Turner’s role as a villain to that of modern-day villains.
The Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines the word “history “as “a branch of knowledge that records and explains past events .” It is often in this explanation that historians will differ. When all presented with similar primary sources, each must chose their own way to understand and explain the unrecorded reasons behind certain actions. Occasionally these explanations will be based on one’s own biases or agendas. Often primary sources themselves, though externally objective, may attempt to influence their readers toward a specific point of view. Similar disputes frequently recur over time, when similar historical situations occur. How one understands Nat Turner and his role in the Southampton slave revolt occurring in 1831, given its connections to such sensitive topics as race and religion, may largely be based on such predispositions. Additionally, cases like that of Turner seem to take place during each generation, leading to similar recurring disputes.