Charles White provided the cover illustration for the first edition of Howard Fast's Spartacus, self-published by Fast in 1951. Accused of treason for not "naming names" before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Fast was sentenced to three months in prison. While there he began work on this novel, which he had to self-publish. Fast also wrote the publicity blurb, which appeared on the book jacket: "Here is the story of Spartacus, who led the first great slave revolt against the Roman Republic in its dying moments. I wrote this tale because I considered it an important story for the times in which we live. Not in the mechanical sense of historical parallels; but because there is hope and strength to be taken from such a story - and because Spartacus lived not for one time of man but for all times of man. I wrote it to give hope and courage to those who would read it, and in the process of writing it, I gained hope and courage myself."

As Fast outlined in his book blurb, Spartacus was about the historic slave revolt led by Spartacus around 71 BCE. The book inspired the 1960 film Spartacus directed by Stanley Kubrick, and starring Kirk Douglas in the lead role.