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Nat Turner's Tragic Search is a narrative of the events that led up to this rebellion as well as drove it

to its bloody conclusion. If it were but a question of its known facts, which are few and far between,

one might feel content with a quick determination of its import. After behavior beyond the pale, a protagonist,

whether as an actual historical figure or as a fictionalized representation, receives his just due. That is, in t

he eyes of the law a slave rebels against his "masters" by taking their lives or encouraging others to do so. 




Other Books on Nathaniel Turner  (1800-1831)


    Nat Turner A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory by Kenneth Greenberg

     Nat Turner Before the Bar of Judgment by Mary Kemp Davis

     Nat Turner's Tragic Search  by Catherine Hermary-Vielle

     The Rebellious Slave Nat Turner in American Memory by Scot French

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Nat Turner's Tragic Search 

for Freedom from Deprivation to Vengeance

By Catherine Hermary-Vielle

Translated by Robin Orr Bodkin


In early November 1831 a slave by the name of Nat Turner was tried, convicted, and executed for murder in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Approximately sixty white men, women, and children died as a result of the rebellion that he planned and led against the slaveholders of Jerusalem, a small farming hamlet in the southeast section of the state. Of the hundreds of uprisings that took place throughout the history of American slavery Nat Turner's rebellion was more successful than most in dispelling the myth of the "contented slave," an individual too passive to fight for basic human rights or self-determination.

Nat Turner's Tragic Search is a narrative of the events that led up to this rebellion as well as drove it to its bloody conclusion. If it were but a question of its known facts, which are few and far between, one might feel content with a quick determination of its import. After behavior beyond the pale, a protagonist, whether as an actual historical figure or as a fictionalized representation, receives his just due. That is, in the eyes of the law a slave rebels against his "masters" by taking their lives or encouraging others to do so. 


Subsequently, he is arrested, tried, and sentenced to a fate as equally horrifying as the one visited upon his victims. Catherine Hermary-Vieille, however, perceptively anchors the origin of this story elsewhere. From beginning to end she paints it with Africa in mind as well as the inescapable influence that a mother and her beliefs can bring to bear on her child. 


"As long as blood coursed through her [Nat's mother] veins, no one would ever convince her that a black person's desire to be free was wrong or unlawful. What she did know for sure, however, was the indisputable criminality of forcing another human being into the bonds of slavery. She could never break those bonds by herself, but Nat... would find a way to do it." 


Thus, Hermary-Vieille invites the reader to focus not so much on the Nat Turner dossier as on the larger meaning of his life and its message. In this light his story is both a literal and figurative search for freedom, a search that tragically consumes his life as it feeds his spirit.Amazon Book Description


As a slave and self-proclaimed leader for all those held against their will, Nat Turner first tried passive resistance as a means of transforming an unjust world. The indifference with which this approach was met forced him to conclude that only violence could effectuate the kind of change he desired.

Accordingly, he organized and led a slave rebellion that resulted in the deaths of some sixty men, women, and children. This brutal revolt took place in rural Virginia during the 1830s. Not only did it catch the local slaveholders unaware but it succeeded in terrorizing them long after "justice was served" at the end of a hangman's noose. To look into the face of hatred and have no inkling as to its origin struck fear in the hearts of the white survivors as well as clouded their sense of right and wrong.

After this tragic sequence of events, slavery and the conservative politics that supported it grew even stronger before finally giving way to a more enlightened outlook some thirty-five years later.

Was Nat Turner a murderer or a hero? Should we deplore his actions as we do those of a terrorist or was there something heroic about them, particularly in the context of slavery as a crime against humanity? Who can say for sure? The value of human life is often in the eyes of the beholder. What can we say is that Nat Turner was a visionary, a complex, inherently intelligent man haunted by questions of good and evil. Whatever he did, whatever the sacrifices involved, he never failed to give his all.

Excoriated by some, venerated by others, few will dispute the indelible mark that nat Turner left on American history.Publisher

An important historical novel . . . breathtakingGroupe de La Cité International Diffusion


In her epic narrative Catherine Hermary-Vielle gets to the truth [of Nathaniel Turner] in what just may be her most stunning book todate. A talented biographer, Hermary-Vieille paints an impassioned [Nathaniel} Turner on a canvas of the harsh realities of slavery . . . realities that virtually leap from the page.Femme actuelle


If American historians have treated him [Nathaniel Turner] as nothing more than a common murderer, the author of this book shows a man ready to sacrifice himself for the sake of his loved ones and his people.Femina Hebdo


Catherine Hermary-Vielle sees him [Nathaniel Turner] in a new light. She sees him as an intelligent, spiritual man, often deeply troubled, yet thoroughly courageous and thus more than willing to sacrifice his own life for something larger than himself.Le Berry Républicain


Source: Nat Turner's Tragic Search

As Colette R. Oberlin of France-Amérique noted in 1998 after L'Ange noir (translated as Nat Turner's Tragic Search) had received the Prix Littéraire du Quartier Latin, "we don't have to introduce Catherine Hermary-Vieille anymore. With all her success... her talent is unanimously recognized."

It is indeed! With more than two decades of stirring prose behind her, some eighteen books to her credit, many already in translation, copies sold by the hundreds of thousands, sufficient critical attention and literary awards to arouse the interest of even the most successful writer, Catherine Hermary-Vieille is at the top of her game. Yet far be it from her to rest on her laurels. While the notion of a fine wine over time comes to mind, it seems woefully inadequate as a characterization of this remarkably gifted, creative writer whose perspicacity and attention to detail have been the hallmark of a distinguished career.

Right from the beginning with Le Grand Vizir de la Nuit (which captured the Prix Fémina in 1981) her writing assumed that most hallowed of French traditions-- le mot juste-- and did so in a rather unpretentious way. Whether they know her as a biographer (in La Marquise des Ombres, the saga of a famous murderess or the tragic destinies of Romy and Lola), a journalist (her numerous articles in such notable publications as Le Figaro, Paris Match, or Gala), a reporter (especially her insightful communiqués from Lebanon for Jours de France), or an editor (her deft contributions to the film productions of Gilles Carle and Alain Jessuah), her readers have steadily grown in number through the years. They have come to appreciate that distinctive clarity and penetrating insight that her writing brings to whatever subject captures her gaze.

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

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Ancient African Nations

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update 18 April 2012




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