Black History Month 2011: 'Are Whites Entitled To Write Black History?' (VIDEO)
Open Road Media recently released William Styron's "Confessions of Nat Turner" as an eBook, hoping to "reach a new generation of readers."
The 1967 Pulitzer Prize winning book details the 1831 Virginia slave revolt led by Nat Turner, during which 56 white people, and many more black people, were killed.
Over the years, Styron's novel has caused much controversy. Some African-American intellectuals and authors were outraged that a white man would dare to write a book about black history. After all, African-Americans had to struggle to maintain a strong identity. Countless books, such as "Autobiography of Malcolm X" and Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye," were written by African-American authors about the difficulties of maintaining a black identity in the midst of white culture.
In Alan Kurtz's article "Are Whites Entitled To Write Black History," he declared that race should not dictate what an author can or cannot write about. He wrote, "Ultimately, history is no one's property. It belongs to all of us; it's our collective experience."
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a Harvard professor, agreed in his video interview with Open Road Media.
He read Styron's novel shortly after it was published. Admittedly, he understood the question that many African-Americans were asking: "How could a white man have the authority, the authenticity, the moral claim, to write responsibly about an event in African-American history?"
However, Gates noted that any White racist person could make the same argument about Gates writing a book about a prominent white person. One of his final statements summed up his opinion on the matter: "Anyone has the right to write about any subject available to be written about."