The Fires of Jubilee:
Nat Turner’s Fierce Rebellion
By: Stephen B. Oats
Dual Credit U.S. History
2nd-Nine Week Book Report
By Taina Ferrer
Shoemaker High School
December 12, 2013
Stephen B. Oates, author of The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner’s Fierce Rebellion was a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and he was an expert in 19th-century American history. This book was an excellent read that would keep anyone on the edge of their seat the entire time they read the book. It was written in a way that was very easy to understand which made the book that much better. Oates also made sure to reveal to his readers who the mysterious Nat Turner really was. Oates was also the author of the books With Malice Toward None which won the Christopher Award and Let the Trumpet Sound which also won the Christopher Award and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award. In this book, Oates vividly reenacted the events that fueled Nat’s mindset, the events that took place during Nat Turner’s rebellion, and the effects that it had after.
Oates began with an extremely thorough biography of Nat Turner who was born on October 2nd, 1800 in Southampton County, Virginia. As a child, everyone who met Nat knew that he was a special, for he was very intelligent, religious, literate, and was also believed to be a prophet by many of his fellow slaves. Nat’s intelligence was praised by his first master, Benjamin Turner, but not by his son, Samuel Turner, who became Nat’s new owner after Benjamin had passed and he did not appreciate his intelligence as much. It was also during this time that Nat first began slave work at the age of twelve under Samuel Turner. This was also the first time that he recognized that he was a slave even though he had been led to believe by whites and blacks alike that he would be freed one day because he was so smart. This event in Nat’s life could have been first time he developed his resentment toward the white man.
From that moment on, Nat performed the same bleak routine for many years. This routine 1
included going to slave praise meetings every Sunday where Nat would listen to a different version of Christianity than what the white preachers told. This alternate version criticized slavery and tried to instigate the blacks into resisting it. These praise meetings could have had a great influence with Nat’s resentment towards the white man as well Samuel Turner. These praise meetings also influenced Nat to begin his own mesmerizing religious rants within the slave cabins which became very popular among them. When Nat was twenty-one years old, he stated that he, “Having soon discovered to be great, I must appear so, and therefore studiously avoiding mixing in society, and wrapped myself in mystery, devoting myself to fasting and prayer.” (pg. 27) In 1819, when the United States experienced a depression and Samuel Turner died, Elizabeth, Samuel’s wife, was forced to sell some of the slaves, as well as Nat Turner. Nat was fortunate enough to be able to stay in Southampton County and he was sold to one Thomas Moore. Nat’s new master was an ambitious man who hoped to make it big in his neighborhood. He was not a cruel master but he worked himself and his field hands very hard in an effort to achieve his dream. In the summer of 1825, Nat began to have visions that assured him that Judgment Day was approaching. When the slaves heard of his visions, they were astonished, even though they expected to one day hear this news from the “prophet”. On the other hand, the white people did not pay much attention to Nat because for one, he was a slave, and two, he was not a certified preacher. On May 12, 1828, Nat had the most significant vision of all. He recalled, “I heard a loud noise in the heavens and the Spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was 2
loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on...
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