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Essay/Term paper: Nat turner

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Humanities

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The Fires of Jubilee : Nat Turner's Fierce Rebellion

Stephen B. Oates

The Fires of Jubilee, is a well written recollection of the slave insurrection led by Nathaniel Turner. It portrays the events leading towards the civil war and the shattered myth of contented slaves in the South. The book is divided into four parts: This Infernal Spirit of Slavery, Go Sound the Jubilee, Judgment Day, and Legacy.

The story takes place in Southampton County, Virginia where little Nat Turner is introduced. Nat led a normal childhood for the most part, supervised by his beloved grandmother. They were working as slaves on a plantation owned by Benjamin and Elizabeth Turner. The Turners became Methodists due to the emphasis on free will and salvation. The impact of religious institutions on slavery gave whites second opinions on slavery. Methodists, Quakers and anti-slavery Baptist made it their duty to see that their voices were heard.

Stephen B. Oats, the author, recalls the unlawful accounts of Nat's mother, Nancy, while being forced into slavery. Being just a teenage, she was abducted in North's Nile River Country by slave raiders. She was then marched hundreds of mils to the coast and sold to the Europeans. She endured the "middle passage" which was the dreaded voyage of being in a crammed small area with many other chained Africans. The results of this torment included suicide, starvation, and death from white man's disease. It was also noted that Nancy tried to kill her baby, Nat, so that she did not have to see him suffer the cruelties of slavery. At an early age Nancy had noticed a special gift that Nat had, such as when he was able to tells stories about his mother before he was born that were never told to him directly.

After his hardships on the plantation, he began to look at himself as a prophet. He would secretly discuss the dislike of slavery with other slaves and announce his experiences with the spirits.

Nat became very distant form the other slaves; it was like he was in another world. He fasted religiously and became well aquatinted with the spirits, and also claimed that they showed him visions in the sky. Nat began to read the Bible in depth and discovered the mockery that the whites made of it, while in reality the Bible was against human bondage. Nat had more visions as time went by such as the drops of blood on the corn. He finally got his vision after his sign from the eclipse. Eager and ready, Nat gathered a group of trusted fellow slaves and began to plot his insurrection.

The third part of the book, Judgement Day, is when the actual rebellion occurs. The first target against the white man was the Travis farm, where Cherry, Nat's wife, was currently working as a slave. They were armed with axes and moved closer to the house. The other slaves rebels insisted that Nat the "Prophet" and the "Black Messiah" should take the first swing. Nat made his way to the bedroom and chopped Joseph Travis' head off. However in rage another slave started thrashing Sally, the wife, as well along with two other whites in the house. This went on for several days, farm after farm, suffered the horrid decapitations of many white slave owners and their families. With all the commotion, Justice James Trezevant requested a large military force to crush the insurrection at once. The whites had soon caught on to Nat and his troops and prepared themselves for the worst, just as what happened at James Parker's farm. Nat's army was slowly decreasing and they needed to recover quickly. Meanwhile, insurgents flourished the streets and warned all of the slave rebellion in the South. Failure crept up on Nat unexpectedly with no where to turn. Everything fell from that point as more of his men were captured or killed, troops surrounded every corner of Southampton County, and slave rebels were beginning to surrender voluntarily. In all the rage whites began to take revenge on the blacks and be just as barbaric as they were. Some of the rebels were sent to court and found guilty. The insurrection put an end to the stereotype that the master-slave relationship was justified or pleasing. Nat was still hiding from authority, trying his best to survive and remain a free man. A man by the name of Phipps was passing by and stumbled upon Nat, soon after Nat was tied up and marched through the hateful crowd of whites. Nat stood before court justices and asked to express his side of the story. He was then kept in jail to wait for his trial. For all the damage Nat had afflicted, he had to suffer the consequence of death, in favor of the court he was hanged.

Nat Turner became a legendary black hero in the eyes of those who praised his attempt to end slavery. With the death of this great slave liberator, Turner received the victory that was disowned upon his life.


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