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Whereas most historians accept "The Confessions" as gospel, French presents

several compelling counternarratives that point to a wider conspiracy.

 
 

The Rebellious Slave

Nat Turner in American Memory

By Scot French

 

Overview

How did the bloodiest slave uprising in American historyonce thought to have involved hundreds of conspirators, black and white, free and enslavedcome to be known simply as "Nat Turner's Rebellion"? And why does the enigmatic figure of the rebellious slave resonate so powerfully across American history?

In this richly detailed study spanning the eras of slavery, Jim Crow, and civil rights, Scot French places the contested history and enduring memory of Nat Turner’s Rebellion within the broader context of the black freedom struggle. French builds his narrative around close readings of historical texts, both famous and obscure, from early American prophecies of slave rebellion to William Styron's 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about Turner. 

He devotes considerable attention to the interplay between quasi-official narratives, such as "The Confessions of Nat Turner" by Thomas R. Gray, and less authoritative sources, such as rumor and oral tradition. Whereas most historians accept "The Confessions" as gospel, French presents several compelling counternarratives that point to a wider conspiracy. A groundbreaking work of American history, analogous to Merrill D. Peterson’s Abraham Lincoln in American Memory and Nell Painter’s Sojourner Truth: A Life, a Symbol, The Rebellious Slave will alter our views of both slavery and its complex, ever-changing legacy.

“Nat Turner was neither the first nor the last American slave to rise in arms against his oppressors,” French writes. “Yet he stands alone in American culture as the epitome of the rebellious slave, a black man whose words and deeds challenged the white slaveholding South and awakened a slumbering nation. A maker of history in his own day, Turner has been made to serve the most pressing needs of every generation since. In remembering Nat Turner, Americans must boldly confront--or deftly evade, at their peril--the intertwined legacies of slavery and racism in a nation founded on revolutionary ideals of freedom and equality.”

Source: Houghton Mifflin (Spring 2004)  www.scotfrench.com

 

Scot French (b. May 29, 1959) is a native of Boylston, Massachusetts. He and his family live in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he teaches History and African American Studies at the University of Virginia.

He received his B.A. in American Literature and Magazine Journalism from Syracuse University, where he served as editor-in-chief of The Daily Orangestudent newspaper from 1979-80. After a brief stint as a freelance writer, he embarked on an eight-year career as a reporter, editor, and columnist for several New England newspapers -- the Peterborough, N.H.-based Monadnock Ledger; the Manchester, Conn.-based Herald and Journal-Inquirer, and the Concord (N.H.0 Monitor. 

During his years as an editor and reporter in New Hampshire, he covered three first-in-the-nation presidential primary campaigns (1980, 1984 and 1988) as well as the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster. He received several journalism awards, including one for depth reporting from the Society of professional Journalists/Sigma Delta Chi (SPJ/SDX) and one for editorial writing from the New England Press Association (NEPA).

French enrolled in the graduate history program at the University of Virginia in September 1988. There he studied under the direction of Waldo E. Martin Jr. (The Mind of Frederick Douglass) and later, as a doctoral candidate, with Edward L. Ayers (The Promise of The New South: Life After Reconstruction). In 1993, French and Ayers co-authored an article - "The Strange Career of Thomas Jefferson: Race and Slavery in American Memory, 1943-1993" - for a volume of essays (Jeffersonian Legacies, ed. Peter S. Onuf) marking the 250th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth. A one-year dissertation fellowship from the Southern History Program and a two-year predoctoral fellowship from The Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at U.Va. provided French with crucial support during the research and writing of his doctoral dissertation. He received his Ph.D. from the Corcoran Department of History in May 2000.

French is an assistant professor and associate director of The Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, where his teaching portfolio includes courses in Southern History, African American History, and African American Studies. He recently traveled to Havana, Cuba, as part of a Ford Foundation-funded program exploring the construction of racial identities in Africa and the Atlantic World. French is married to Christine Madrid French, an architectural historian and preservation activist. Their first child, Gideon, was born in 2001. The Rebellious Slave: Nat Turner in American Memory

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Books on Nathaniel Turner  (1800-1831)

     The Manichean Leitmotif by Arthur Graham

    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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Nathaniel Turner TimeLine  / 1831 Confessions     /  Sonnets in Memory of Nathaniel Turner (Rudolph Lewis)

Nathaniel Turner: Christian Martyrdom in Southampton: A Theology of Black Liberation (Rudolph Lewis)

Nat Turner in History's Multiple Mirrors  (Felecia R. Lee, NYTimes)  /  Hatcher Plans to Exhibit Turner Skull

 

Insurrection Of The Blacks Niles’ Register  Sept. 3 1831  Sept. 10, 1831  Sept 17, 1831

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

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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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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.”

 We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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update 9 March 2012

 

 

 

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Related files: The Rebellious Slave Overview  A Conversation with Scot French   The Rebellious Slave Reviews