Books: The Idea of Hope

THE CONFESSIONS OF NAT TURNER by William Styron. 428 pages. Random House. $6.95.

In the summer of 1831, a force of 60 Negroes led by a mad, messianic slave named Nat Turner cut a red swath through the Virginia Tidewater country, slaughtering every white man, woman and child in their path. Although it was suppressed in two days, the rebellion claimed 55 victims. Its leader died on the gallows with 16 of his men. His body was flayed and the flesh rendered into grease; some souvenir-minded Virginian sliced a money purse out of the...

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