Historical book review - Kam Chung Cheung HIST 1301...

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Kam Chung, CheungHIST 1301Professor Charles5/14/2015Stephen B. Oates. The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner’s Fierce Rebellion. New York: HarperCollins, 1975In Stephen Oates’s work, The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner’s Fierce Rebellion,tells the story of a man who caught a glimpse of freedom as a child and understood its value.Nat Turner used his spotless reputation among whites and religious influence over black slaves to cleverly plan a slave rebellion in 1831.Nat’s insurrection reinforced both the fear and ignorance of Virginia whites toward the institution of slavery, which resulted in numerous repercussions toward slaves, despite would-be Southern Christianintentions. Oates firstly illustrates his point to slavery in Virginia that slavery was an integral part of Southern life in early 1800’s Virginia. Even Virginia’s governor, John Floyd, only disapproved of the institution for an economic reason, namely tariff reductions given to Free states. In addition, for many plantation owners and farmers, owning slaves was a status symbol. Beyond the societal implications, slavery served as a means of “racial control” (10); if blacks were kept busy serving masters, they would not have the time or means to revolt. Virginia allowed such freedoms as slave schools and slave churches, but at the same time enforced slave behavior with military guard. Most Great Planters were not unnecessarily cruel to their slaves; many owners allowed slaves holidays off and opportunity to be with family in the evenings. By comparison, Virginia – especially Southampton County – was more lenient with slaves than the Deep South, perhaps because “over one-third of Southampton’s white families owned no slaves” (2), and the
country had never experienced a risk of rebellion. For the most part, “Southampton whites regarded insurrection as some unimaginable calamity that happened to someone else.” (50) This lack of experience with slave discontent further propagated the white perspective that slaves were satisfied with their current conditions.

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