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Black History

The REEL Nat Turner Story: Nate Parker’s “The Birth of a Nation”

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By: Leticia Latrice

The name Nat Turner is one often left out of many history books, but his slave rebellion is a story not just Black Americans, but all Americans should know.

The movie “The Birth of a Nation” was written and directed by Nate Parker who also played the leading role.  The story is about the legendary literate slave and preacher Nat Turner. Parker states that the history of slavery and racism in America has been sanitized and he believes that the true trauma slavery has caused, has not been acknowledged and says his desire was to expose the roots of racism in a way, it has never been told.

Parker’s mission is to share with the world a more realistic perspective of slavery. It was a seven-year journey for Parker to bring this passion project to life. He invested his own money and gained the support of other financiers to raise the 10 million dollar budget to create the film. There are many stars that also believed in the project as much as Nate. The all-star cast of the movie of Armie HammerAja Naomi KingJackie Earle Haley,Penelope Ann Miller, and Gabrielle Union wanted to help create history with the film. At the 2016 Sundance Film Festival, the movie was given the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.  The film also garnered the attention of  Fox Searchlight Pictures  which forked over $17.5 million to buy  worldwide rights to the movie– the largest deal at the film festival to date.

Originally The Birth of a Nation was a film made in 1915 by D. W .  Griffith  based on a novel called the “Clansmen”. It was a silent film that was awarded because it introduced a new type of videography to the film industry. This type of videography was the foundation of the way we watch movies today. However, the film made a very negative impact on history.  This film told a story of how powerful, rebellious black people partner with northern liberals and eliminate the existence of the southern white supremacist culture. This film encouraged and persuaded whites to join the Ku Klux Klan. It was said this film helped fuel the recruitment of the KKK to 4.5 Million members.

Parker said he chose the name of this movie because he wants to reverse the negative stigma that the original movie “The Birth of a Nation” has and for it to now represent something positive. This film tells the story of the revolutionary slave Nat Turner who rebelled against injustice by persuading black people to escape slavery, become educated and kill racist white slave owners.  Parker says that he wants anyone who watches the movie to experience the true struggle of slaves and he wants to inspire people to stand up for justice no matter the sacrifice it takes. Parker says he wants this film to help heal the pain of slavery and promote unity and justice.

Even though it took Parker seven years and his blood sweat and tears to create this film it couldn’t have been released at a better time. The senseless murders of young African Americans in America is a too similar to the senseless lynching that has happened to blacks for decades.  If black history is not properly told then what wisdom are we leaving for our children? Black history needs to be accurately told to expose the injustice that we still face today. We have to realize how important is to look back in the past to deal with the present and change the future. Please don’t forget the sacrifices and strides heroic blacks like Nat Turner have made for black people. Please take the time to watch this phenomenal movie “The Birth of a Nation”.  Commit to share the history, acknowledge injustice and be willing to fight for change.

Please join the discussion with us at The Reel Network we would love to hear your feedback. What do you suggest people can do to promote and preserve black history?

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