Last night’s 60 Minutes segment on Nate Parker and The Birth of a Nation understandably was forced to lead with the filmmaker/star’s controversial 17-year old acquittal on rape charges and the suicide of his accuser 12 years later, but they really did leave some compelling historical stuff on the cutting-room floor that is worth watching.
The segment showed a white man bring out for Parker and Anderson Cooper the sword that Nat Turner used to lead the 1831 bloody slave rebellion in Virginia. That county clerk carrying it, Rick Francis, is a direct descendant of the slave owner who owned the movie’s subject. He was interviewed alongside Bruce Turner, the third great-grandson of Turner. Those men now are pals, but they have a widely different view of whether Turner should be called a hero. It is perhaps understandable that Francis doesn’t see Turner as that, considering his family tree was trimmed by about 17 members slain by slaves in the rebellion. Many of those family members were women and children.
And it turns out Cooper himself has a loose tie to the notion of slave rebellion. He discloses not only that his fourth great-grandfather, Burwell Boykin, bought and owned a dozen slaves, but that the man had his own deadly confrontation with one of those slaves and found himself on the business end of a farm hoe.
CBS has put all this into a short video. It’s worth viewing, as some conversation moves away from Parker’s controversy and on to the controversy of the desperate actions taken by the subject of his film.
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