Nat Turner after 9/11: Kyle Baker's Nat Turner
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Scholars have thoroughly questioned what Nat Turner meant to others in the past; in this article, I question what he means today. Reversing William Andrews's injunction to read “Prophet Nat's” 1831 insurrection through the US's encounter with religio-political terrorism on 9/11, I instead examine the effect September 11th has had on the rebel slave's contemporary afterlife. Ultimately this article asks what cultural work Nat Turner now performs, what his most recent depictions tell us about the racial formations of the present. Drawing on comics theory, I parse the visual rhetoric of Kyle Baker's popular and increasingly studied comic Nat Turner, in which Baker tropes Nat Turner as Christ just as Nat Turner himself did in his Confessions. Baker produces an inviolably iconic black hero, one who is visually antithetical to racist images of “the terrorist" circulating in post-9/11 discourses on national belonging. By doing so, Baker effectively safeguards not only Nat Turner but US "blackness" from Islamophobia during the age of the Global War on Terror. Finally, by reading Baker's comic alongside other recent, unexamined depictions of the rebel slave, this article critically intervenes by updating the archive on Nat Turner and complicating the political possibilities that inhere in other sites of memory.