An opportunity lost

Published 9:20 am Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Like many in Western Tidewater, we had been looking forward to Sunday’s most recent episode of “60 Minutes,” which featured an interview of Nate Parker, the lead actor and director of the Nat Turner movie “Birth of a Nation.” Several months ago, the “60 Minutes” crew was in Southampton County, and well-known television journalist Anderson Cooper conducted the interview at the county courthouse in Courtland. He also interviewed county clerk Rick Francis and Nat Turner’s great-great-great-grandson, Bruce Turner. But what should have been a fascinating look at the impact of Nat Turner’s insurrection, the historical effect it had on the institution of slavery, as well as Nate Parker’s interpretation of those events in his film, was primarily a look back at Parker’s legal troubles of nearly two decades ago when he was accused of rape when he was a college student. Parker was eventually cleared of those charges.

Especially given the fact that in his commentary Anderson chose to point out that there were no memorials to Nat Turner in Southampton County save for a roadside plaque, Anderson missed a huge opportunity to better educate his viewers on the insurrection and the resulting impact by choosing to spend so much time on Parker’s own troubled past. The piece was a tremendous disappointment and a disservice to the magnitude of such an historic event.