The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner’s Fierce Rebellion

Topics: Nat Turner

The paper is a review of the book “The Fires of Jubilee” whose setting is in Southampton County in the 19th century. It begins with a brief explanation of the book and the author. The thesis of the author is explained in this paper and also the method used to deliver a message. There is a measure of the degree of success the author achieved in work. The body is a thorough analysis of the interesting biography which is drawn from the content and method of delivery.

Finally, a conclusion of the study is provided in this book review.

The Fires of Jubilee is a story that talks about Nat Turner who initiated a slave rebellion which led to a loss of about sixty whites and one hundred and twenty blacks in the rural of Virginia in 1831. The main man idea in the story is about the life of Turner who grew up in slavery and in his lifetime did everything possible to fight for freedom even if it meant committing murder.

The author of the book is Stephen B. Oates who is also the award-winning biographer of famous leaders Martin Luther King Jr and Abraham Lincoln. He authored sixteen books in total during his career and was also a professor of history. All his work centered on the biographies of Americans who shaped the history of the nation in the 19th Century.

The main aim of the author for this book is to explain the struggles of slavery in the 19th century and the actions taken by slaves to fight it.

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It also tries to tell what would anger slaves so much to the point of killing their masters in demand for freedom. The consequences of these heinous acts are also portrayed in the book. To make the story fascinating and maybe to pass his desired message, the author decides to bring it out from the slave’s perspective. The style used proved to be successful regarding the message received. It was however not entirely successful because not everyone agrees with the word that Oates seems to be spreading.

The Fires of Jubilee is an account of events that tries to show the current generation what had happened in the 19th century that shaped the history of slavery. Everyone has heard the slavery stories being told, but it is only when you read the book that you feel how it was. The sufferings that Turner went through are explained in detail, in a manner that one becomes emotionally attracted to read more. The book gives the details of these struggles that led to the rebellion in a bit to show that a person who is continually pushed to his limits reaches a point that an urge to fight back overpowers him.

Oates used a unique style to show his message and verdict without saying it literally. He does so by portraying Turner as a victim of slavery who underwent so much suffering. He portrays Turner as such a victim that his actions to do anything to get out are justified. In many books, the audience tends to side with the main character and the creator, being aware of this can influence the audiences’ judgement. Stating that causing a rebellion to kill the white masters is justified, is not something one can say openly in a book. Also, a complete disapproval of the acts of Turner is not something that Oates agreed with. It is evident because the author has so much interest in people that fought for the abolishment of slavery . In the book also, Oates shows signs of dislike of slavery. He says that slavery is a form of “Racial Control” .

The story is told from the slave’s perspective, and therefore what comes out is that Oates wants people to feel what it was like, and to understand the reason for Turner’s actions. By telling the life of the slave, Oates can provide a view of the struggles and disappointments that Turner went through in his daily life. In so doing, the effect is that sympathy is felt for the man and may also a feeling that the guy was justified to attack his masters . It is not, however, for certain that this was his message. Oates delivers the story in a way that it leaves one in a dilemma on which side to be in. He was smart and did not provide a verdict but instead leaves it for everyone to decide on their own. The decision here is whether, Turner who has since been seen as a revolutionary, was justified to commit such an act for freedom or it was wrong and immoral.

Oates chooses the title of the story to show that the actions of Turner were not pointless, but formed a start to which led to the American Civil War fifty years later. Whether Turner was right or wrong in his works, his name would be mentioned then in the history of slave rebellion as a revolutionary leader . He states that the “rebellion is one of the causes of animosity between races leading to the civil war” . The title therefore means that a fifty-year fire is slowly igniting among the slaves and could burn later. It is after the rebellion that civil rights debate was brought into existence and then the Civil War.

The story presents the life journey of Nat Turner, from growing up as a promising child, later getting an interest in religion and finally his death while fighting slavery. The major part of the story focuses on the fight of slavery and tries to decide whether it was worth it. The author seeks to bring out the events as a turning point in the fight for the abolishment of slavery. He convincingly argues out that Turner pioneered the start of the battle for freedom. The choice of his title simplifies that the Civil War was a continuation of what Turner started. In this story, the author does not take sides completely and in the process wrote a strong narrative. Oates is not completely convincing in his desire to portray the struggles of slavery because the accuracy of most stories in the book is not truly factual. Also, the author gives Turner additional positive qualities which may not be true. Despite the imperfections, the truth was close to it, and Oates delivered a great biography.


  1. Baker, Kyle. Nat Turner. Abrams, 2015.
  2. Bisson, Terry, and John Davenport. Nat Turner: slave revolt leader. Infobase Publishing, 2009.
  3. Cramer, Clayton E. ‘The racist roots of gun control.’ Kan. JL & Pub. Poly 4 (1994): 17.
  4. Schnelle, Cat. ‘The Fires of Jubilee’ by Stephen B. Oates and Philosophy.’ (2014).
  5. Oates, Stephen B. The fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner’s fierce rebellion/Nat Turner’s fierce rebellion. No. 975.555 Oa8f Ej. 1 025124.

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The Fires of Jubilee: Nat Turner’s Fierce Rebellion. (2022, Apr 23). Retrieved from

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