“Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner’s Rebellion”

Slavery became the framework of which the American Economy was built on. The development of Cotton Gin into a lucrative business made slavery become extremely important to the plantation owners. Slavery became a major part of the American Economy. The Virginian slave owners scarcely believed in the possibility of a slave rebellion due to the good treatment of their slaves. Despite their thoughts and theirs beliefs, the slave owners would soon see the effects of the institution, which they created.
The Nat Turner rebellion did not go without causes, nor did it lack effects. The rebellion started when slaves were first brought to America. It just needed the leadership of Nat Turner to bring it all together. The first event was a rebellion in Santo Domingo. Approximately sixty thousand people were left in a cycle of racial carnage. The whites feared the rippling effects of a rebellion of this nature. The next effect that would become a cause for the rebellion would be an insurrection that occurred in Richmond. Gabriel Prosser formed a conspiracy that he hoped would overthrow his oppressors. This insurrection severely frightened the southern slave owners that it could happen to them. “Though not a single white had died, the Gabriel conspiracy shook Virginians with volcanic fury, because it seemed incontestable proof that a Santo Domingo had been boiling right under them.” (Oates, 17) The next to plot for an insurrection was Vessey. A servant leaked information and Vessey and his fellow conspirators were hanged. They feared any other attacks and did everything they could to prevent them. “After the tidewater gentry formed vigilance committees to watch the slaves, and whites throughout the low country kept their muskets loaded.” (Oates, 43) The final piece of the puzzle that brought the rebellion together was the visions of Nat Turner. He was extremely smart and even had visions of a bloody end to the horrors of slavery. He began preaching about his visions on Sundays to fellow blacks and had them rally around him. He was finally able to gain support to lead an insurrection of his own.
The effects of the rebellion were both good and bad. Bad effects were the public trials and hangings of most of Nat’s co-conspirators. There were also actions taken against the abolitionists. Slave owners would blame the abolitionists for instigating the rebellions and began to put rewards for the capture of abolitionists. “Never mind legal rights and freedom of speech-in Southern eyes Yankee abolitionists did not deserve any rights.” (Oates, 135) Despite their fear of the abolition of slavery, the southern slave owners did agree to a gradual abolition of slavery. This was a small victory for Nat Turner and his rebellion, but it was still known as the first war for the freedom of slaves. “They regard Nat’s rebellion as the ‘First War’ against slavery and the Civil War as the second.” (Oates, 145)
The novel praises Nat Turner as an intellegent man who had many qualities of a leader. Oates understands Turners capabilities and describes how he was held back from being the best that he could be. According to Oates, the rebellion was necessary and he praises Nat for trying to lead his people to freedom.
A review of William Styron’s novel, The Confessions of Nat Turner, written by Neil Sapper, a description of a rebellious leader is shown. He describes Nat as not being as intelligent as he was portrayed in Oates’ novel. Oates was more concerned with including things about Nat was feeling, while Styron foucused on the broad, historical accounts.
Rebellions began before Nat Turner and continued after. Rebellions started when slavery started and would continue till the Civil War.
1. Oates, Stephen B., The Fires of Jubilee. Harper&Row Publishers. New York 1990

2. Sapper, Neil. Review: The Confessions of Nat Turner. 1997http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/D/1826-1850/slavery/confes04.htm