The birth sparks for freedom: The Birth of a Nation The Birth of a Nation | Sunday Observer

The birth sparks for freedom: The Birth of a Nation The Birth of a Nation

In the light of the wave of police attacks on members of the African American community in the USA, in the recent past, the movie, The Birth of a Nation, directed by Nate Parker must have surely made a significant impression in the self proclaimed ‘Land of the Free’ aka USA.

The Birth of a Nation is a biopic and period drama chronicling Nat Turner, and the slave uprising he led in the old plantation economy based South of the U.S, in 1831. Parker plays the central role of Nat Turner, and also carries credit for having co-written and co-produced the movie. The movie depicts one of the bloodiest slave revolts in U.S history and perhaps, may be likened in its significance to the story of Spartacus who led a slave uprising against Rome.

The story of Nat Turner shows how his literacy helps to make his owner use Nat as an instrument for financial gain by making him a ‘slave preacher’ who uses the gospel as a means to subdue veins of disobedience among slaves in plantations.

Unruly slaves are thereby suppressed with means other than physical harm which may not always seem like a guaranteed solution. However, what Nat witnesses in the course of his visits to various plantations stir in him empathy for his fellow slaves that give rise to the revolt leader –Nat Turner, who comes to believe that providence has brought him forth to lead his people to freedom.

What is interesting to note is that the very basis of belief that Nat was made to make an instrument for the psychological suppression of slaves becomes the means by which he builds his antithesis to what he was made to perpetuate by his owner.

An intriguing matter to note about how the theme of religious beliefs plays a central role in this story, is the very opening scene that shows Nat as a child being designated a prophet, should be ‘listened to’, by an African tribal leader (presumably from the slave community in the plantations) in a ritualistic gathering that carries the elements of voodoo and shamanism.

Instilling belief as the primary force by which leadership is created and a movement is set in motion, can be seen through this story. Slavery was an abominable crime on humanity perpetrated by Europeans, and through them the U.S. in order to build vast empires of wealth. Interestingly, it is they who have now taken on the preachy cause of edifying the ‘non-white world’ about Human Rights.

And, if you really look into the history of how black slavery in the U.S. was ended, there lies the story of how physical struggle that involved both violence and resistance through generations of determination drilled into the ‘white psychology’, officially, that the black people whom they chose to treat as chattels were humans as well.

The Birth of a Nation shows the futility for civil measures as dialogue on the part of the physically enslaved man when seeking a path to freedom. It is action and action alone, that boded some sliver of hope for them to break the shackles clasped on them.

Following on the track of movies, such as, 12 Years a Slave, cinematic works like The Birth of a Nation are noticeable artistic communiqués of aspects of histories of countries like the U.S. and the ignominious barbarity called slavery, which they proudly upheld until the oppressed unrelentingly rose up systematically to overthrow the chains of bondage. 

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