Virginia Humanities Residential Fellow Suzette Spencer will present her research and consideration about Nate Parker’s 2016 film, exploring what it now means to image and imagine Turner’s uprising almost two centuries after the fact, after the gains of the modern Civil Rights Movement, and 100 years after the first film, The Birth of a Nation (1915).
In 1831 Nat Turner, an enslaved Baptist preacher, collaborated with band of conspirators in Southampton, Virginia, to mount one of the most memorable uprisings against racial slavery in US history. Turner’s uprising failed, but beyond the battlefield it rocked the nation in unprecedented ways, and has held a prominent, if vexed place, in America’s public memory ever since.
Beyond the work of academic historians, what can be (re)discovered, theorized, and/or questioned? What can be revised, perhaps, in revisiting and retelling a story of Turner’s slave uprising now through film? The talk mines some ways in which Parker’s film functions as a intertextual weave that meditates on the problems of racism and freedom, past and present; on ongoing problems of civil rights, and how the film invites its audience to collectively examine our roles in envisioning and constructing equitable futures of freedom.