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James Earl Jones

A black director, a white author, and their differing accounts of rebel slave Nat Turner

A black director, a white author, and their differing accounts of rebel slave Nat Turner

A black filmmaker puts his acting career on hold, raises nearly $10 million and makes a movie about the rebel slave Nat Turner. His film receives a rapturous reception at a major festival, a bouquet of awards and praise from Hollywood's elite.

A white novelist writes a bestselling account of Nat Turner's life. Critics call it a major accomplishment, and the book wins the country's top literary prize. But black intellectuals denounce it as racist. Hollywood scuttles a plan for a movie, and the writer, wounded by the accusations, retreats.

Fifty years separate the experiences of Nate Parker, the filmmaker, and William Styron, the novelist. Yet the controversy over who has the...

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