The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 75, July 1971 - April, 1972

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

The second section of this book is devoted to the historical in-
terpretation of the Turner revolt. Many scholars have followed the
path set out by the unfortunately biased, pro-slavery, southern his-
torian William Drewry. Drewry maintained that Turner was a
religious fanatic without a plan of action and even without a sense
of the meaning of freedom. Herbert Aptheker, who is able to put
aside his Marxist bias when writing about Turner, regards him as
an authentic black hero who, "possessed the characteristic of great
leaders."
The only weakness of this otherwise highly commendable book is
that it does not include in this interpetative section the work of
F. Roy Johnson. This folklore-historian lives in Murfreesboro, North
Carolina, in the region of the Turner rebellion. He is the only his-
torian aside from Drewry to use the Southampton Court minutes
of the Turner trial and to interview descendants of persons involved
in the insurrection. Johnson has proven the marriage of Nat Turner
to a slave named Cherry and this historical fact has some bearing on
the third section of the book under review.
The third and last section concerns the literary controversy sur-
rounding William Styron's novel, The Confessions of Nat Turner.
Believing that "to come to know the Negro has become the moral
imperative of every white southerner," Styron, a native of Tidewater,
Virginia, set out to "think black." Thus he came to portray Nat Turner
as a brave, intelligent but unstable religious fanatic contemptuous
of his fellow slaves. However, Styron pictured the fictional Nat
Turner as sexually obsessed with white women, and this was largely
resented by Negro readers. Mike Thelwell, a Negro professor at
the University of Massachusetts, feels that this, "demonstrates the
persistence of white southern myths . .. even in the most enlightened
minds."
The editors have produced a well-balanced anthology which pro-
vides the reader with ample information and provocative opinion
upon which to base his own thoughts and conclusions.
Chowan College BARRY MENDEL COHEN
Negro Legislators of Texas and Their Descendants. By J. Mason
Brewer. (Austin: Jenkins Publishing Company, 197o. Pp. xiv+
154. Sources, addenda. $9.50.)
J. Mason Brewer, cited in the "Forward" by Alwyn Barr as "the
most distinguished living Negro folklorist" (p. vii), set an ambitious

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 75, July 1971 - April, 1972. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101201/. Accessed July 29, 2014.