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The Fires of Jubilee by Stephen B. Oates is a thrilling tale about the Civil War that took place in Virginia in 1831. The author tells about the different events that led to one of the biggest civil wars in American history. The book evaluates the role of freedom and civil rights and explains why they are very important in any democracy. This essay will analyze the book and assess various issues that the author depicts in it, such as freedom. The objective of this essay is to create a book report for The Fires of Jubilee.
In Southampton, Virginia, rebellion was led by Nat Turner. Turner led the fight against slavery in this state. At the time, the white population in Virginia insinuated a moderate slave regime. However, Virginia white settlers claimed that their slaves were not bullied; rather, they were happy and contented as slaves.
Issues that Led to the Slave Rebellion
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In 1831, other enslaved black American citizens like Nat Turner were ready to start a human rights revolution. Turner is described in the book as a man of great abilities with high literacy levels. Black slaves were not allowed to learn to read and write. This was because the white supremacists did not want them to learn about their constitutional rights. However, Turner managed to learn to read and write mainly through reading the Bible (Oates, 2014).
Turner’s ability to read the Bible made him understand various revelations as depicted in the Bible. He understood that the white supremacists were using weak reasoning to justify slavery. This was evident from the numerous stories of liberation from exile and captivity told in the Bible. Through these biblical texts and his personal experiences in slavery, he began declaring that God had given him a vocation to liberate his people; like Moses in the Bible. In 1831, there was a dramatic eclipse that Turner took as a sign from God calling him to accept his vocation. Turner began gaining influence among some black slaves who started to group. Those small groups started operating as vigilantes. Getting in those small groups, they ambushed white people in their farms across the country (Oates, 2014).
Turner was a knowledgeable black slave whose litera capacities surpassed that of any ordinary slave and even that of most white children. Thus, he was allowed to study the Bible by his original masters Mr. and Mrs. Turner. Turner was well known by his masters for his polite behavior and they would never suspect him to bring trouble.
The white settlers of Southampton, Virginia, never feared rebellion of slaves because they were the much more lenient than slave codes in most states. Thus, believing that their slaves were contented, they did not find any reason to fear slave rebellion. Slaves in other parts of the country had started rebelling after realizing the injustice that being done them. In August 1831, Turner and his followers carried out a series of executions of white settlers in Virginia. They were armed with axes, knives and hatchets. The mayhem continued for two days before the rebels were seized and Turner was arrested (Bauman, Leopard, & Ingram Digital, 2008).
Turner was reluctant to carry out those executions because of his religious conviction that condemned murder. Consequently, he felt morally obliged to have mercy on his previous masters who had given him many privileges. However, his followers were angered by the harsh treatment they had been receiving over the years. This made them to ruthlessly attack the white settlers. Nevertheless, the rebellion was considered extremely brutal as the slaves murdered infants, children and women in their attacks (Styron, 2010).
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Aftermath of the Rebellion
Oates depicts the numerous events that followed the Turner’s rebellion. The author tells that after the revolution, black people suffered more casualties than the white people who had been ambushed by Turner. The slaves’ army committed many atrocities; however, the white settlers, trying to suppress the rebellion, committed many more (Oates, 2014).
Although Turner addressed the inhuman treatment of slaves in Virginia in the revolution, it was concluded that it was Turner’s religious illusion that led to the rebellion. Therefore, the issues raised by the black slaves were not addressed even after the Civil War. Turner admitted that he did not regret fomenting the rebellion, and that it would happen again even after his incarcerration (Styron, 2010).
On the other hand, before the white settlers identified the slave vigilantes, they believed it was the British colonizers who were carrying out the executions. The white settlers in Virginia were filled with fear and suspected William Lloyd Garrison of the atrocities committed. This was because Garrison had abolished slavery in some parts of the Northern America. This caused the northern white settlers to impose more strict rules, limiting freedom of slaves. Thus, the civil revolution led to a worse situation than it was initially, before 1831 (Oates, 2014).
What Turner Achieved in History
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Turner’s rebellion almost convinced Virginia’s governor of that time to table an emancipation bill that would have ended slavery in the South. However, the bill was never passed after numerous consultations of the governor with his entrusted advisors. If the bill was passed at the time, this would have changed the future of America’s civil revolution. The turbulent rebellion by Turner and his followers ended after three days of human onslaught. Although the slave army led by Turner did not manage to achieve freedom for black slaves, they came closer to significant changes in the American history than any other slave at the time could have imagined (Bauman, Leopard, & Ingram Digital, 2008).
The Civil War caused the destruction of Richmond in 1860’s. The Civil War intensified more in the 1860’s, and the main cause for the rebellion was the slavery issue. The author depicts the role of Turner in changing the future of America’s civil rights. Although Turner was condemned as a religious illusionist, Turner had a dream of liberating his people under their constitutional right of freedom (Oates, 2014).
Oates concludes the book by giving postscript of his field trip to Virginia where the Turner’s story unfolded. He claims that some of the revolt traces were still discernible, so he could trace the routes used by rebels to attack farms of white people. He concludes his postscript by telling that he was saddened by the presence of a racial tension in Virginia nowadays despite the Turner’s revolution that took place almost a century and a half ago.
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