History presents the life of great men and women who engaged in intense situations, face plenty of opposition and rebelled against systems because of what they believed in. Stephen Oates, through his book, Fires of Jubilee, introduces the reader to the life of Turner who lived in an era where plenty of revolutions were taking place. Through Turner's life, a reader can empathize with the situation during that era and appreciate the efforts of the people in shaping America to be what it is today. The focus of the analysis on the life of Nat Turner on his actions to determine whether he was a freedom fighter, a terrorist or an individual who focused on bringing social disorder in his environment.
Oates begin the story with the Turners biography where the reader learns that his mother, Nancy, was a slave. His mother was brought to America in 1795 of which she was a bought by a man known as Benjamin Turner. Nancy got married to her fellow slave where she conceived Turner. The mother attempted to kill him as a way of saving him from slavery but late refrained from the thought. Turner was viewed to be special because of his skill of telling events that had taken place before he was born and hence developed a huge liking from the other slaves. He was very intelligent such that he read books without receiving formal guidance which made their owner swear that Nat will not work for anyone as a slave (Oates n.p.). Nats life begins to change when his father escapes to the north for freedom and his master dies. He is left to the harsh rule of the masters son. He becomes a preacher when he turns into an adult where he experiences that directs him to begin an anti-slavery rebellion. The rebellion is ruthless by which Nat and his crew attack white households and kill men, women, and children. The rebellion receives an aggressive retaliation from the whites who kill all blacks regardless of whether they were innocent or not. The approximate number of deaths is about two hundred and sixty by which two hundred are blacks and sixty whites (Oates n.p).
The sole intention of fighting against slavery makes Turner a freedom fighter. He viewed the living conditions of the slaves and the oppression that they were subjected. His preaching gave him hope similarly to the other slaves which justified his need for fighting against slavery (Gary n.p.). Through The Confessions of Nat Turner by Thomas Gray, one gets the idea that Turner justified himself for taking part in the action and that his focus was to free his people and not to cause drama or steal property from the whites. In defending him, he states, That his object was to murder and rob for the purpose of obtaining money to make his escape. It is notorious, that he was never known to have a dollar in his life; to swear an oath; or drink a drop of spirits," (Gary n.p.). Gary admired Turner rather than judge him for his actions. From his piece, he explains that Turner was the most admirable man because of his courage and being among the few who were eloquent when it came to the reading and speaking the English language. Also, while in prison, Gary explains that he admired Turners religious affiliation and how he composed himself when making his confessions (Gary n.p.). Therefore, it can be viewed that Turner was not a terrorist but rather an individual who saw it necessary for the slaves to obtain their freedom and the held the view that violence was the only way that could be used for them to be heard.
It is perceived that after the successful rebellion by Turner, despite being hanged after the incident, some of the slaves were empowered to stand firm on their beliefs while some whites, due to religion, found the act of slavery to be inhuman (Oates n.p). The story of Harriet is among the many stories that illustrate the rebellious nature of the slaves in regards to being oppressed by their masters. In her story, A Slave is Tortured, she presents an autobiography about her life, the challenges that she to endure as her slave and finally her participation in the abolitionist movement which later took part in the American Civil War (Jacobs n.p.). Therefore, Turner can be viewed to be freedom fighter because of the impact that he had on other slaves.
Be that as it may, he resulted in the death of innocent men, women, and children from the white population by which his efforts also resulted in the death of innocent blacks who were killed out of revenge. Therefore, it can be viewed that he was guilty of causing the death of innocent people. Nonetheless, his intentions for the rebellion were justified because of the inhuman treatment that the slaves were subjected to. Therefore, Nat Turner was a freedom fighter and not a terrorist.
Gray, Thomas. The Confessions of Nat Turner written by Thomas Gray. Retrieved from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/nchist-newnation/4477
Jacobs, Harriet Ann. "A Slave is Tortured". Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part3/3h1516t.htmlOates, Stephen. The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner's Fierce Rebellion. New York: Harper & Row, 1975.
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