Nat Turner: A Slave Rebellion in History and Memory

By Kenneth S. Greenberg | Go to book overview

TWELVE
Interview with William Styron

Q: The best way to begin this conversation is to talk about your early childhood growing up in the South.

William Styron: I guess I was a little unusual as a kid growing up in the Virginia Tidewater, in a segregated society in the 1930s, in that I was a bit more sensitive than most of my young contemporaries to the ironies and paradoxes of this thing they called Jim Crow segregation. I was sensitive to it because it seemed to me a situation that had no real reason for being. I couldn't understand why an entire race of people in an area which was 40 percent black should be treated as second-class citizens. I don't claim any special enlightenment, but I do think I had the influence of both my mother and father who were, by the standards of that day, advanced in their thinking, liberal, enlightened, and who I think at an early age taught me that this whole system was something profoundly wrong, profoundly evil.

I also think I was influenced by the fact that I had a direct connection with slavery. My father's mother, my grandmother, as an old lady in her eighties when I was probably 10 or 11 or 12, was able to tell me about the fact of her own ownership of slaves. She was a little girl on a plantation in North Carolina, and she had two little slave girls that were her own property. During the Civil War, the plantation where she lived was ran-

Edited from an interview conducted for the documentary film entitled Nat Turner ˜ A Troublesome Property, produced and written by Frank Christopher and Kenneth S. Greenberg, directed by Charles Burnett.

-214-

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