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Civil Rights in the White Literary ImaginationInnocence by Association$
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Jonathan W. Gray

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781617036491

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781617036491.001.0001

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“Negroes, and Blood, and Horror”

“Negroes, and Blood, and Horror”

William styron, Existential Freedom, and The Confessions of Nat Turner

(p.105) Chapter Four “Negroes, and Blood, and Horror”
Civil Rights in the White Literary Imagination

Jonathan W. Gray

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter discusses the controversy that resulted from a response to William Styron’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Confessions of Nat Turner. In 1968, Beacon Press published William Styron’s Nat Turner: Ten Black Writers Respond, a collection of essays edited by distinguished historian John Henrik Clark. To liberal thinkers and academics, the Ten Black Writers represented the logical end of the more militant strains of the Civil Rights Movement. According to them, Styron’s book criminally denied the historical Nat Turner revolutionary agency, underplayed the impact of slavery, overlooked the importance of religious thought in Black life, and cherry-picked historical evidence in order to reinforce notions central to white supremacy. The positive reception of the book, which led to a Pulitzer, only confirmed the worst fears of the “militant” scholars who were profoundly offended by the novel.

Keywords:   slavery, religious thought, William Styron, Nat Turner, John Henrik Clark, white supremacy

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