Nat Turner Portrayals

Who was Nat Turner? The historical record leaves us without clear answers. Because Turner’s unmediated voice does not exist in the historical record, this question has been left to interpretation. William Styron’s controversial portrayal certainly received the most public attention, but for 136 years prior to it, artists and authors had been imagining who Turner was. The answer to the question therefore varies across time, place, and even text. Within a given work, Turner can be depicted as an inspired leader and a bloodthirsty animal. Each item in this exhibition is tagged with the relevant descriptor and an accompanying explication of a work’s characterization of Turner.