nat turner

A film about a slave rebellion written, produced and directed by a Black filmmaker, who also stars as the patriotic protagonist, sold for a record-breaking $17.5 million at Sundance, thanks to a Black woman’s hashtag activism stimulating the conversation about erasure and misrepresentation at one of the world’s most prestigious award ceremonies. Major moment for Black history and the arts.
‘The Birth of a Nation’ Is an Epic Fail
A firestorm of controversy has swirled around Nate Parker and his film The Birth of a Nation in the two months since several media outlets revealed that Parker and his co-author, Jean McGianni Celestin, stood trial for raping a young woman in 1999.

3 important take-aways from the article:

1) “Contrary to his promises of “historical fidelity,” Parker created a deeply flawed, historically inaccurate movie that exploits and distorts Nat Turner’s story and the history of slavery in America. Nearly everything in the movie—ranging from Turner’s relationship with his family, to his life as a slave, and even the rebellion itself—is a complete fabrication. Certainly the film contains sprinklings of historical fact, but the bulk of Parker’s story about the rebellion is fictitious: Nat Turner did not murder his owner, nor did he kill a slave patroller. Turner’s rebellion was not betrayed by a young boy, or by anyone else involved in the revolt. To the contrary, the rebels fought until the bitter end. The shootout depicted in Jerusalem, Virginia, never happened, because the rebels were stopped by the militia before they ever reached Jerusalem. The list of inaccuracies, distortions, and fabrications goes on and on.”

2) “ Like the film’s other fabrications about black women, the rape story line is carefully constructed to redeem black masculinity at black women’s expense. According to The Birth of a Nation, all of the women in Turner’s life were passive victims in desperate need of black male protection. This fabrication flies in the face of historical fact. There is overwhelming evidence that Turner’s mother fought valiantly against slavery, even attempting to commit infanticide when Nat was born to prevent him from being enslaved. Yet Parker and Celestin depicted her as a meek, mild victim who resigned herself to slavery. Cherry and her female daughter are also portrayed as helpless victims who suffer unspeakable horrors until Turner rides in on his horse and vows to seek vengeance on their behalf. The only other major black female character in the film, who is brilliantly played by actress Gabrielle Union, does not speak a single word during the entire movie. She literally has no voice, and like all of the other black women in the film, she has no agency. Instead, like Cherry, she is a victim of a horrifying rape, which must be avenged by the black male heroes in her life.

3) “[I]t’s time for different messages in films about slavery—ones that depict slavery and the people who endured it in a holistic fashion. Black people were not just victims of a cruel and dehumanizing system. They were survivors who fought valiantly to retain their dignity, culture, and humanity despite their circumstances. We need movies that show how spirituality and African culture helped enslaved people survive unspeakable conditions. Ones that show enslaved people’s resiliency during slavery, particularly their ability to celebrate family and community, and even to find joy in the midst of pain and sorrow. Black people were not just brutalized “bodies”—they were dynamic, loving souls with a spirit and an indomitable will to survive.” 

Any thoughts from those of you who have seen the film?


via Shadow and Act: First Look at Nate Parker’s Nat Turner Film, ‘The Birth of a Nation

By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act

Here’s a first look at official images from Nate Parker’s much anticipated “The Birth of a Nation,” which the actor wrote, directed and also starred in, playing Nat Turner.

The official synopsis reads: Set against the antebellum South, this story follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. After witnessing countless atrocities against fellow slaves, Nat devises a plan to lead his people to freedom.

Joining Parker in front of the camera are Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Jackie Earle Haley, Gabrielle Union, and Mark Boone Jr.

The film is making its World Premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival as I announced in the post just before this one.

It’s certainly a film that’s high on my list of 2016 films to see!

No trailer yet, but these stills (above and below) should hold you over until then.


August 21st 1831: Nat Turner’s rebellion begins

On this day in 1831 the Virginian slave Nat Turner began the deadliest slave rebellion the United States had ever seen, which resulted in the deaths of 55 whites. Turner, a slave preacher, had come to believe that God intended for him to lead a black uprising against the injustice of slavery. In the evening of August 21st 1831, Turner and his co-conspirators met in the woods to make their plans and early the next morning began the rebellion by killing Turner’s master’s family. Turner and his men, who soon numbered over 80, then went from house to house assaulting the white inhabitants. Eventually a local militia, and then federal and state troops, confronted the rebels and dispersed the group. Turner himself initially evaded capture but was captured on October 30th. Subsequently Turner, along with over fifty other rebels, was executed. However the retribution for Nat Turner’s rebellion did not end there. The uprising sent shockwaves across the South, and while full scale rebellion such as Turner’s was rare in the Deep South due to the rigid enforcement of the slave system, caused widespread fear of another rebellion. In the ensuing hysteria over 200 innocent black slaves were killed by white mobs. Turner’s rebellion came close to ending slavery in Virginia, as in its wake the state legislature considered abolishing the ‘peculiar institution’. However the measure was voted down and instead the state decided to increase plantation discipline and limit slaves’ autonomy even further by banning them from acting as preachers and learning to read. Similar measures were adopted across the slave-holding South and thus Nat Turner’s rebellion increased the South’s commitment to slavery, despite undermining the pro-slavery argument that it was a benevolent system and slaves were content. Turner has left behind a complicated legacy, with some seeing him as an African-American hero and others as a religious fanatic and villain; his memory raises the eternal question of whether violence is justified to bring about necessary change.

January 26, 1944: Birthday of Comrade Angela Yvonne Davis, former political prisoner, Marxist-feminist theorist and prison abolition activist.

I wish Angela Davis a great birthday. She has been a major inspiration in my life and has done incredible work on so many issues. I still hope she will say something about the way her good name was exploited by Mayor Bill de Blasio, killer cop Bill Bratton and the New York Democratic establishment at last week’s Martin Luther King Day event in Brooklyn:

Today in History: 13 August 1831 - Nat Turner interpreted a solar eclipse on that day as a sign to begin his planned rebellion

“Born into slavery on October 2, 1800, in Southampton County, Virginia, his name was recorded as “Nat” by his master Benjamin Turner, and when Benjamin Turner died in 1810 Nat became the property of Benjamin’s brother Samuel Turner"

“Turner spent his life in Southampton County, Virginia, a plantation area where enslaved laborers were the majority of the population. He was identified as having “natural intelligence and quickness of apprehension, surpassed by few.” He learned to read and write at a young age.”

“Deeply religious, Nat was often seen fasting, praying, or immersed in reading the stories of the Bible.”

“Turner’s religious convictions manifested as frequent visions which he interpreted as messages from God. Turner’s belief in the visions was such that when Turner was 22 years old he ran away from his owner but returned a month later after receiving a spiritual revelation. Turner often conducted Baptist services, preaching the Bible to his fellow slaves who dubbed him “The Prophet”. Turner garnered white followers such as Ethelred T. Brantley, who Turner was credited with having convinced to “cease from his wickedness”.”

“Turner was proclaimed as a prophet by his fellow black slaves on the plantation. In early 1828, Turner was convinced that he “was ordained for some great purpose in the hands of the Almighty.” While working in his owner’s fields on May 12, Turner

“heard a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first.”

“He was convinced that God had given him the task of “slay[ing] my enemies with their own weapons.” Turner said, “I communicated the great work laid out for me to do, to four in whom I had the greatest confidence” – his fellow slaves Henry, Hark, Nelson, and Sam.”

“On February 11, 1831, an annular solar eclipse was seen in Virginia and Turner envisioned this as a black man’s hand reaching over the sun. He initially planned the rebellion to begin on July 4, Independence Day. Turner postponed it because of illness and to use the delay for additional planning and deliberation with his co-conspirators.”

“On August 13 there was another solar eclipse in which the sun appeared bluish-green, possibly the result of lingering atmospheric debris from an eruption of Mount St. Helens. Turner interpreted this as the final signal, and about a week later, on August 21, he began the uprising.”

Nat Turner (Wikipedia)