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Fires of Jubilee

Oates, Stephen B. The Fires of Jubilee, New York: Harper & Row, 1975
Stephen Oates, in a riveting storytelling fashion, captures the desires
and anxieties of the early to mid 19th century, with The Fires of Jubilee.
Oates has performed rigorous study to present an accurate portrayal of a
fascinating and mysterious man, who lived during an extraordinary period in
American history.
Oates begins the book with a thorough biography of Turner. He makes
a real effort to show what lead a man to commit the actions he did. Nat was
born on October 17, 1800 in Southampton County, Virginia. His mother
Nancy was brought to America in 1795. The man who purchased her was
Benjamin Turner, a wealthy tidewater planter. Nancy married a slave whose
name is not known, and gave birth to Nat. Interestingly she tried to kill Nat
rather then see him grow up to be a slave. By the time he was four or five
years old, people started to realize that there was something very special
about Nat. He could recall things that had happened before he was born.
Nat's parents were very proud of him and discovered strange marking on his
head and back. African legend held that a male with such markings would
grow up to be a leader. He intelligence earned the respect of other slaves as
well. One time he was given a book by another slave. Amazingly he knew
how to read it. No one knows who taught Nat to read, as an education was
very rare among slaves. His master, Benjamin Turner was extremely
impressed with Nat and often remarked to friends that, "he would never be of
service to anyone as a slave."
In 1809 Nat's life changed immensely. The first shock came when his
father escaped slavery to the north, never to be seen again. The second shock
was the death of Nat's master. In 1810 Nat became the official property of
Benjamin's oldest son, Samuel Turner. Samuel was a highly religious
bachelor in his mid twenties. Samuel worked his slaves hard and used
Christianity to scare slaves into obedience. I found this to be one of the most
fascinating situations in the book. The author takes several pages away from
Nat's story to describe some attitudes in the south. Most southerners,
including slave holders were deeply religious, devoted Christians. The basic
idea that whited tried to teach blacks was that God is...

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