Turner Summary

Turner Summary.
The Fires of Jubilee is Stephen B. Oates stirring narrative of the dramatic events which
took place in Southampton, Virginia in 1831. His book contains only a little analysis or
historiography, but focuses the vast proportion of its 150 and plus   pages on a straightforward
telling of the violent events of the slave rebellion which broke out, and which will forever be
associated with the name of it's leader, Nat Turner.

In Oates' account, white Virginia prided itself on its moderate slave regime, even
convincing itself that the slaves were not bullied into obsequiousness but were happy, indeed
grateful for their lot. White Virginians looked down upon what they regarded as the ill-treatment
of slaves in states known for their harsher codes, such as Georgia or Alabama. The reality which
lurked below the calm surface was that slaves like Nat Turner refused to be complicit in their
dehumanisation and humiliation, and spent years planning an armed revolt.

Turner himself is a fascinating character. A man of unusual abilities he managed to gain
the ability to read and write (although this was illegal), and read all he could -especially of the
Bible. Reading the Bible for himself, Turner discovered that the White peoples proof-texts
justifying slavery were weak; and that the book was full of compelling stories of the divine
liberation of captives and exiles. These texts, his life experiences, and his interpretation of
mystical signs forged a conviction in his mind that God had called him to be a Moses-like
liberator of Virginia's black slaves. A dramatic eclipse in 1831 convinced Turner that God was
calling him to start his rebellion, and so his small band of followers began their revolt, executing
whites across the county farm by farm. Oates book provides a systematic chronology of the brief
revolt and it's brutal suppression.

As fascinating as the story of the rebellion itself, is Oates' account of the...