Sharon Ewell Foster is the first African American to win the Michael Shaara Award for excellence in Civil War Fiction for her fact-based novel, which offers new facts about Turner’s revolt, The Resurrection of Nat Turner. Part 1: The Witnesses. The prize will be presented to her on November 19, 2012 at the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, PA, as part of the celebration of the 149th anniversary of Lincoln’s historic address. Steven Spielberg, whose blockbuster movie, “Lincoln,” will be opening in theaters, will also be part of the Gettysburg Commemoration ceremonies. The Witnesses is the first of the two-book series published by Howard Books/Simon and Schuster on Nat Turner and written by Foster.
Thirty years before the Civil War, Turner, a literate slave preacher, led a southern insurrection against slavery that left more than fifty whites dead. Foster reinterprets the importance of Turner to the looming Civil War with new evidence, weaving his actions among those of other well-known abolitionists like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Henry Ward Beecher, and Richard Allen, founding bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Turner’s name continues to spark controversy and was mentioned in President Obama’s address at the groundbreaking of the National African American Museum of History and Culture – currently under construction on the National Mall in Washington, DC. This month marks the anniversary of the Turner’s trial and hanging.
Foster’s novels place politics front and center in Turner’s story and her research discredits the primary historical source document, the justification for Turner’s hanging, The Confessions of Nat Turner, a pamphlet penned by Turner’s believed attorney, Thomas Gray.
“The Confessions lies, alters the record, and portrays Turner as a mad man,” explains Foster. “According to the original trial transcripts, Turner pled innocent. There was no confession. Thomas Gray was not Turner’s attorney. Gray’s name is not part of the actual transcript.”
The Michael Shaara Prize, given by the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College, honors novels about the Civil War, especially those that “encourage fresh approaches to Civil War fiction.” The jury that selected this year’s Shaara Prize noted, “Foster tells the story of the 1831 Virginia slave uprising led by Nat Turner in the voices of multiple characters. . . Foster renders these voices masterfully, allowing readers to inhabit fully each character’s life circumstances and state of mind. Moving and profoundly humane, the novel is a riveting account of crucial events on the timeline toward Civil War.”
The Civil War Institute joins a list of others to critically acclaim her Nat Turner novels. Publishers Weekly calls her work “fast paced” and “riveting.” Dr. William Darity, Professor of Public Policy and Chair of the African American Studies Department at Duke University, calls the novels “remarkable,” and “a substantive counter to William Styron’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Confessions of Nat Turner. Professor Ray Winbush of Morgan State University, consultant on PBS’s Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property, compares the importance of Foster’s work to Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and calls her books “liberating.” D.G. Martin, UNC-TV host of North Carolina Bookwatch calls Foster a gifted writer and positively compares her books to Kathryn Stockett’s The Help.
Though Foster’s books have been mired by unexplained, on-going distribution problems, she is encouraged by the Shaara Prize. “It is confirmation that even after 180 years, the truth will not be buried.”
About Sharon Foster
An inspired, but risky, midlife career move at the turn of the millennium changed the course of Sharon Ewell (rhymes with jewel) Foster’s life. Formerly, a Defense Department instructor, writer, analyst, and logistician, she is a now a critically acclaimed, award-winning author and speaker. Her first historical novel, Passing by Samaria, was chosen as the NAACP Book of the Year in 2000 and won her the Christy Award – she remains the only African American to win the award for inspirational fiction. She is author of eight other books, including the Essence bestselling Ain’t No River. For more details, visit www.sharonewellfoster.com