During a nationally broadcast radio interview, Distinguished Professor of History Kenneth Greenberg discussed the unique voice of Nat Turner on the 185th anniversary of the Virginia slave rebellion Turner led, saying that the enslaved rebel’s fight for liberty should be recognized.
Reporter Todd Zwillich spoke with Greenberg about Turner’s legacy and the forthcoming movie Birth of a Nation, which chronicles Turner’s history.
After his capture, Turner revealed all to his attorney Thomas Ruffin Gray, who later published Turner’s words as The Confessions of Nat Turner: The Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Virginia.
Greenberg said that The Confessions is unusual in that it is largely in Nat Turner’s voice, with some additions from his lawyer.”
“We have no direct voices from enslaved people who were rebels other than this document from Nat Turner,” said Greenberg, who has written extensively on Turner, cowrote and coproduced the documentary Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property, and is the editor of second edition of The Confessions of Nat Turner, to be published this fall.
“Nat Turner is a great American figure. He’s someone we should admire because he fought for freedom. He gave up his life for liberty. So I’d like to see that recognized,” said Greenberg. “And like any hero, he has flaws, but nonetheless --unrecognized. And this is true for enslaved people who rebelled in general. You can go and search the country for the monuments to those people. You can go to Virginia where the rebellion happened and go to the town where it happened, and you will find no monument to Nat Turner; you will find a confederate monument to the confederate dead. That’s a sad state of affairs.”
The interview was broadcast on “The Takeaway,” produced by Public Radio International, WGBH, and WNYC.