Professor T. Rioux
February 18, 2013
Fires of Jubilee Exam
August 21, 1861 proved to be a day of sorrow, pain and lessons learned. The Fires of Jubilee is a historical account of the events that led to the bloodiest slave rebellion in southern history. Nat Turner is painted as a fairly intelligent and prophetic slave who believed he was chosen to free his people from their slave bondage. Nat’s rebellion last almost two whole days before being halted by militia men from the state of North Carolina, leaving upwards of 50 whites murdered in the aftermath. Although it took some time to fully accomplish, the rebellion of Nat Turner ultimately led to the freeing of the slaves some years later. The history of the south and slaves was forever changed by the events of the rebellion. Nat Turner’s name will forever be a symbol of black terror and violet retribution and at the same time, a legendary black hero.
In the Old South, it was understood that Christianity was not only used to save heathen souls, but also to keep the slaves suppressed and kept them from striking back against their masters.(Page 14) Southern white slave owners would pick and choose only certain bible lessons for the slaves to be shown. The owners felt that by restricting the knowledge of the slaves, they would be able to keep them inhibited. Words of the bible were twisted to mean different things to the slave population. Slaves were told that if they did not obey their masters and perform their allotted tasks that God would burn them in the flames of an eternal hell. To be good children of God the slaves were to accept their lot, be meek and faithful, patient and submissive, even if their masters were cruel. Slaves were taught to leave it to God to punish. And if they behaved great would be their reward in heaven. (Page 14)
Nat Turner was a very special slave. From a very young age it was obvious that Nat was intelligent and others around him knew it. People around Nat always thought he would grow up to be a prophet. “He was like a powerful angel whose wings were nailed to the floor.” (Page 69) As Nat grew older he also grew in his faith, he believed himself to be in full favor of God. He prayed daily and spent time in devotion and fasting to his heavenly father. In an attempt to gain more following Nat performed a baptism in the river of a white man. The result was not as he hoped, however it only helped to push him closer to his God. Nat began having visions for a time before the rebellion came into full plan. His visions were often bloody and violent, being described as blacks and whites fighting in battled under a darkened sky while thunder rolled in the heavens. Rivers of blood flowed free about and voices spoke from heaven saying “Such is your luck, such you are called to see, and let it come rough or smooth, you must surely bare it.” Nat was captivated by these visions and prayed fervently for a revelation. After some time had passed, the Spirit called out to Nat from the heavens saying “Behold me as I stand in the heavens.” Nat looked up and saw the saviors hands stretched forth from east to west, even as they were on the cross on Calvary for the redemption of sinners.” (Page 36) Slave owners and others around town either passed Nat off as crazy or simply did not bother to believe him because he was not an ordained minister. In his own way, Nat was one of the most renowned prophets of his day. He was revered and trusted by many fellow slaves. Nat also claimed to have powers of healing and such.
Several men became close confidents of Nat. He had full trust and confidence in his “lieutenants” as he called them. Four men Hark Travis, Nelson Williams, Jack Reese and Sam Edwards were Nat’s leading men in the rebellion. They were responsible for many things but spent a lot of time spreading discontent within the slave communities keeping them ready and on edge at any moment for the...