America’s Slave Revolt

America’s Slave Revolt

“History,” said Stephen Daedalus, “is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”

But first it must be fully dreamed, in all its implications. And this is what William Styron has set out to do in The Confessions of Nat Turner, which he calls “a meditation on history.”

In August, 1831, a few miles south of where the first slaves were brought into this country 200 years earlier, a literate slave, Nat Turner, acting on Biblical and visionary inspiration, led an uprising of Negroes against their white masters. His revolt, which accomplished the murder of 57 whites—men, women, and children—was ruthlessly suppressed and was succeeded by bloody reprisals and repressive legislation to secure the institutions of slavery. After a quick trial Turner himself was hanged.