11 he was unusually bright compared to other slave

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that “happened before he was born.” (11). He was unusually bright compared to other slave (and white) children and was thus given the opportunity to learn to read and study The Bible by his original masters, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Turner. Even they believed he far exceeded the intelligence and capabilities of an average slave. Because of his impeccable behavior, the Turners entertained his young mind by encouraging him to entertain their white friends with his literacy and wit. Though possibly unintentional, Nat’s special treatment was ultimately a cruel trick; when he became old enough to work in the fields, he was set out to hard labor like any other slave. This was “…an especially painful time, for he had been led to believe he might be freed one day.” (21) Although the option to abolish slavery was always available, the Southern agricultural- based economy was too dependent on that aspect of the labor force to discontinue the practice. Christian influences introduced another paradox of Southern slave owners; while some Christian sects denounced slavery, others were able to justify through bastardized Biblical interpretation
that made slavery seem legitimate in the eyes of God. Nat’s first owners, The Turners, were pleased when their Methodist congregation stopped trying to “eradicate the peculiar institution and set about Christianizing the slaves for a better time ahead.” (10). Probably due to a cultural divide resulting in misunderstanding and fear of African and Caribbean religions, many like the Turners truly believed that spreading Christianity to the slaves was God’s work. Perhaps the economic necessity coupled with a modicum of kind treatment toward black slaves made the institution of slavery just civilized enough to live with. Surely influenced by his Christian beliefs, Nat spoke of experiencing messages from God and visions of angels which pointed to his divine selection as the chosen one to lead a slave rebellion. “God did not intend a man of his gifts, his intelligence, his powers to waste his years hoeing weeds and slopping hogs.” (32). After transitioning from a childhood where he was respected for his aptitude, to working as a field hand alongside slaves to whom he was intellectually superior, Nat recognized that the best use of his gifts was to continue playing the role of a “smart nigger” and take advantage of the time and liberties he was given by his masters (52). Nat practiced polite and subservient behavior to gain a reputation never to be associated with trouble. Nat ran away once but apologetically returned of his own will shortly thereafter. He never swore, stole or drank alcohol. As Nat grew older, he became incredibly pious and eventually developed a following as a slave preacher. His return from escape and devout practice of Baptist beliefs reinforced both white religious morality and the notion that Nat was a model slave who could be trusted. After being inherited, bought and transferred, Nat became the property of Joseph Travis who thought Nat was “the smartest, best behaved slave a man was likely to own in all the county.” (66). Based on Nat’s impeccable reputation, Travis allowed him

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