A Diamond in the Dirt: Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation

By Laurent Sicard – 1851 Staff

More often than not, the truth is ugly; but even if you seldom look it in the eye, you’ll have to face it eventually. Last month’s The Birth of a Nation, directed by Nate Parker, confronts the harsh historical narrative of a successful slave revolt in Virginia. In addition to producing, and directing this film, Nate Parker also occupies the lead role of Nat Turner, an enslaved preacher who fans the flames of revolution, and is emancipated. Released on October 7, this film has not enjoyed longevity; if you weren’t aware of its existence, it’s because it’s been removed from your local movie theater, as it was with mine.

This is largely due to the fact that Nate Parker’s name has been slandered across the media. While attending Penn State during his college years, Parker was accused of rape, but was acquitted; and thereby found not guilty. Unfortunately, around the time of this film’s release, his former accuser committed suicide. Parker has expressed remorse over her death, but regardless the media expects him to apologize for a crime that he didn’t commit. In a country where you’re “innocent until proven guilty,” the media has responded with hypocrisy in dealing with Nate Parker. News channels like CNN have attempted to galvanize him into anger and rarely have interviews revolved around the film.

If mainstream media has succeeded in doing anything, it has been shifting the focus of the public eye from the film, to Nate Parker’s past. Consequently, sales for this movie have plummeted and as a result, the narrative has been swept underneath the rug. You can no longer go to your local Showcase Cinemas, or AMC theatre to view the film; and you’d be hard pressed to find it online. But that’s okay because slavery makes America uncomfortable anyway. And besides, people want more Madea and Kevin Hart right?

It’s a shame that at times, expressions of black culture aren’t taken seriously unless it’s a parody of some sort or unless its purpose is to entertain. Tyler Perry’s, A Madea Halloween and Kevin Hart’s, What Now? are both worthy of their achievements and money they’ve made. Kevin Hart and Madea are hardly figures that one would associate with empowerment. For his abolitionist efforts, Nat Turner deserves to be recognized in conjunction with the long line of venerated African-American historical figures.

As Nat Turner once said, “Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity.” Ultimately, mainstream media has mislead its viewers by creating dialogue that negates the significance of The Birth of a Nation in our day and age. Truly Nate Parker’s reputation has been vandalized, and as a result, Nat Turner’s narrative remains a diamond in the dirt.


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