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Comics and the U.S. South$
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Brannon Costello and Qiana J. Whitted

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9781617030185

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617030185.001.0001

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date: 14 August 2018

Drawing the Unspeakable

Drawing the Unspeakable

Kyle Baker’s Slave Narrative

Chapter:
(p.113) Drawing the Unspeakable
Source:
Comics and the U.S. South
Author(s):

Conseula Francis

Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781617030185.003.0005

Nat Turner, a comic book written by Kyle Baker, is about the life of African American slave Nat Turner and his infamous 1831 slave insurrection in Southampton County, Virginia. Aside from its incredibly violent story, the book seems to be, as critic Marc Singer suggests, an attempt by Baker to “jazz up slavery.” Baker draws on Thomas Gray’s 1831 The Confessions of Nat Turner, rather than the now considerable body of historical and creative work devoted to Turner and his raid, as the text of his book. This chapter offers a reading of Nat Turner to analyze Baker’s visual rendering of the fugitive slave narrative form through a strategically violent aesthetic that takes issue with Gray’s 1831 account. In particular, it examines how Baker reinvents the basic rhetorical premises of the slave narrative with Nat Turner. It also cites the example of Denmark Vesey and his failed insurrection in Charleston, South Carolina, to demonstrate the legacy of the respectability/morality required by the nineteenth-century slave narratives.

Keywords:   comic book, Kyle Baker, Nat Turner, slave insurrection, slavery, Thomas Gray, Confessions, Denmark Vesey, slave narratives

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