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The Fire Of Jubilee Essay

5178 words - 21 pages

A Study Guide for Stephen B. Oates'
The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner's Fierce Rebellion

Ron Briley
Sandia Preparatory School

|THE SUBJECT OF SLAVERY is a difficult one for many teachers of American history, who, seeking to avoid controversy and |1 |
|contemporary racial antagonism, sometimes give less than satisfactory attention to this central chapter of the American | |
|past. Slavery may be shortchanged in favor of Civil War battlefield heroics as teachers attempt to avoid the phone call from| |
|a parent who is concerned that dredging up this dark chapter of American history will exacerbate racial conflict among | |
|students and provide them ...view middle of the document...

field hands; the positive | |
|defense of slavery; the impact of the cotton gin and expansion of slavery; the internal slave trade; the class structure of | |
|the South; the sexual exploitation of slaves; and the coercive aspects of the institution. | |
|      These topics just listed readily suggest themselves. However, what is often missing from the study of slavery in the |3 |
|schools is a sense of black agency, and this explains why some African-Americans students are opposed to the study of | |
|slavery and complain that it produces a sense of shame. Accordingly, subjects such as the development of an African-American| |
|culture and family, along with slave resistance to their status and treatment must be an integral part of any examination of| |
|slavery. Students must be exposed to the courageous acts of sabotage, deception, running away, and rebellion by which the | |
|slaves resisted their white oppressors. Perhaps slave insurrections are the most inflammatory subject for many teachers and | |
|students but students should be aware of the legacy of grass roots resistance running from the aborted rebellions of Denmark| |
|Vesey and Gabriel Prosser to the successful slave revolt in Santo Domingo (Haiti) and the most bloody insurrection in the | |
|United States: Nat Turner's revolt in Southampton County, Virginia in August, 1831, which resulted in the death of nearly | |
|seventy whites and over two hundred blacks killed in retaliation. | |
|      While Nat Turner's revolt was not pretty and frightens contemporary Americans who call up visions of urban riots from |4 |
|the late 1960s and Los Angeles in the early 1990s, the story of Nat Turner, as Albert E. Stone suggests in The Return of Nat| |
|Turner: History, Literature, & Cultural Politics in Sixties America, is essential to understanding race relations in the | |
|1830s, 1960s, and twenty-first century America. Comprehending the horrors of American slavery which drove Turner and his | |
|comrades to take up arms against their masters should shock students, just as it did even many Southerners in the 1830s, | |
|into moving beyond the mythology of benevolent masters caring for their charges within a paternalistic system. For | |
|African-American students who find the study of slavery shameful, Nat Turner provides a heroic example of grass roots | |
|activism and resistance. Just as the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was an indigenous revolt which goaded the | |
|federal government into finally taking action, the abolition of slavery was not simply the work of Northern white | |
|abolitionists. The struggle against slavery was waged every day by African-Americans in the South, and Nat Turner's | |
|insurrection simply provided the...

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