TheFires of Jubilee
StephenOates, in a riveting narration fashion, seizes the anxieties anddesires of the mid-19thcentury, with TheFires of Jubilee.He has tried in his rigorous research to present a precise portrayalof an attractive and mystifying man, who waded through a weird periodin the American history. Oates commences the book with the biographyof Nat Turner. He makes a veritable bid to explain what happened tosuch a man and what compelled him to take the action he took. Turnerwas a black man and a preacher who was deep into the religion and sawvisions that he claimed were directives from the Almighty God. Manypeople adored him as very smart and intelligent lad. One of his mostfamous achievements was leading an insurrection in the County ofSouthampton, Virginia in 1831 brutality with his friends killingwhite people (Oates89).
Turnerwas born to a man called Benjamin Turner in 1800. He was taken toschool and learned how to read and write at his tender age. He sawhimself as the Moses in the Bible and was determined to lead andguide the captured people to freedom. The sun eclipse convincedTurner in 1831 that the time was ripe for all slaves to stand up fortheir liberty. As a youth, he used to pass his time watching how hisfellow people- African-Americans- were mistreated before and duringhis lifetime. Turner keenly watched how a big number of people werebutchered, brutalized and dismembered- women, men, and children andalso how women were raped by their masters and superiors. He alsowatched how Samuel Turner went back on Benjamin Turner’s promise tosend him to slavery (Bruce89).
WhenNat was at the age of 12 years, he was separated from his age mates,a mixture of colored people and white kids. He developed a desperateattitude towards life because he never felt comfortable like thatbefore. Nat was shocked beyond words that he could be taken toslavery with all his knowledge, life skills, and intelligence. Evenwhen Nat befriended his fellow free black boys, he still noticed thatlife was like making a living on the little plot in swamps. Also,from them, Nat realized how the limited freedom voice of the socialand political rights was depleted among the Africans. Oates says thatTurner would bring the years of Jubilee if the first white masterswould become obedient to the last black master, which was the primarymission of Nat.
Onthe judgment day, September 23, 1833, Nat led an insurrection. Inthis case, all the white people who killed and dominated Nat’sfamily and friends were also supposed to be killed. Although hecommanded total demolition of the white people, Nat decided to sparea few of them like Giles Reese because his family resided on hisfarm. It indicates that he would have spared most of the white peopleif they had no threats and resistance from them. After killing JosephTravis and his family, Nat told the black people to move on weakeningtheir slavery chains. Although it was not a well-planned revolutionregarding the precision of the military organization, many whitepeople lost their lives. At this point, the black population wasconfirming its partial victory.
Throughreading the Bible for himself, Nat came to know how weak theproof-texts of the White people about justifying slavery were. Oatesindicates the forcing narrations of the divine unshackling of theexiles and captives. Such texts, his experience of life, and theinterpretation of the mystical signs caused him to create aconviction in his mind that God had called him to be just like Mosesand repatriate black slaves from Virginia. As described from above, adramatic solar eclipse in 1833 further created a mentality of God’smiracle and divine calling to start a severe rebellion against theirenemies. Due to this, his small group of followers began theirrevolution, killing and evicting the White people across the regionfarm by farm. Oates’ book gives the order of the brief revolutionand its brutal suppression.
Therebellion story is an account of Oates on the 1833 aftermath ofevents. Firstly, it was forgotten that the number of the blacks whowere killed in the reprisals of the Whites far outnumbered thevictims of Turner. Secondly, Oates indicates the significant level ofdread among the White people who were dumbfounded that the rebellionwas the portion of the vast revolution that was planned by WilliamLloyd and other Northern Abolitionists. Such misconception led to theimposition of harsher and stricter codes of slaves in Virginia thatsignificantly diminished the slaves’ limited freedom, which theyused to enjoy before 1831. Oates also records how Nat’s rebellionbecame one of the significant factors that were combined to persuadethe Governor of Virginia to bring forward the emancipation bill tothe state legislature. As the state favored the end of turmoil anddisturbing presence of the slavery, most black people started seeinga higher probability that the Governor’s bill would pass, whichwould have caused an enormous consequence for the South and alteredthe course of the US history, particularly the Civil War (Morris101).
Oatessays that Nat and his counterparts who organized the uprising did notmanage to trigger the whole scale slave war, and several slavesremained at the hands of their masters as the rebellion lasted foronly three days. Nat`s group almost came closer to reforming thehistory than it was anticipated. One thing Oates sees certain is thatif Nat had lived to see Richmond’s destruction in 1860 at the endof the Civil War that was finally defined by the slavery issue, hewould have said it was a good judgment on the South that wasthreatened in 1831.
Oatesfinishes his book with an afterthought of narrations from his trip toVirginia to study the Nat story. More information about the revoltsis given so that tracing the route of the rebels from one farm toanother was feasible for Oates in 1860s. Detailed accounts of someold farms from the 1830s are also exposed in his book. Oates foundthe region still dominated with racism for about a century after Natled his slaves out of their land of slavery to overthrow theirmasters. In his book, Oates averts making any moral judgment aboutNat and his group. He has also not lifted the moral agenda of MartinLuther King and Gandhi from the 20thcentury and put them into the 1830s events to commence a discussionabout the confrontation of evil through non-violent struggle (Bland59).
Bland,Sterling L. AfricanAmerican Slave Narratives: An Anthology.Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2001. Print.
Morris,Thomas D. SouthernSlavery and the Law, 1619-1860.Chapel Hill: the University of North Carolina Press, 2006. Print.
Oates,Stephen B. TheFires of Jubilee: Nat Turner`s Fierce Rebellion.Place of publication not identified: HarperCollins e-Books, 2014.Print.
Bruce,Dickson D. Violence,and Culture in the Antebellum South.Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009. Print.