The book The Fires of Jubilee by Stephen B. Oates, gives an account of the slave insurrection that took place in 1831 in Southampton County, Virginia, led by the self-proclaimed prophet Nat Turner. Oates gives an historic account of the events that led up to the deadliest insurrection before the civil war. Oates relies on the evidence of Nat Turner’s confessions, trial documents and other related material; but he does not give a fair account of the Southampton insurrection. The problem lies within Oates’ fixation on the storyline, the development of the character, and the tale of the events; over the actual evidence that historians are known to give account of. The storyline Oates portrayed makes a good tale, and the order of events appears accurate with the evidence provided; but Oates fails to give service to Turner and the events at work before the Civil War.
The evidence Oates uses comes from several different sources: The Confessions of Nat Turner, by Thomas R. Gray, the original trial records from Southampton County Court house, which Oates states “The trial records are written verbatim in Henry Tragle’s compilation of documents” (Oates 1975, 157). Other resources came from news paper articles and a folder that was compiled by Governor John Floyd of Virginia, Oates refers to. The confessions of Nat Turner and the court records relay the turn of events of the Southampton insurrection, with brief history of Nat Turners youth and visions he received from God. The evidence also portrays a trail of events concerning slavery that would eventually lead to the Civil War. Oates uses the material in a drama form of entertainment; not as a historical term of events.
Thomas Gray a defense attorney for the captured slaves of the rebellion; found Nar Turner to be interesting and sought to get an interview with him. Gray his influences as defense Footnote:
Stephen Oates. The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner's Fierce Rebellion. (New York: Harper Pernnial) , 1975,157...
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