William Styron’s The Confessions of Nat Turner, a novel about the leader of a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1831, was highly praised after its publication in 1967. Then African American essayists in William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond took issue with the novel and rejected Styron’s asserted right to reimagine Nat Turner’s life and to assume his voice, claiming their rights of racial heritage and historical accuracy to castigate Styron for his offensive presumption. That distant argument of unshared assumptions and crossed purposes between high-minded and hypersensitive artists and intellectuals of another day may throw refracted light on the heated and principled divisions over racial issues expressed on campuses, on city streets, and in the media in our time.



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