“The Confessions of Nat Turner” Book Review

Kenneth Greenberg wrote a revised version of William Styron’s book (cf. “The Confessions” in 1967), named “The Confessions of Nat Turner: with Related Documents” (2016), revealing unbelievable and shattering life events of African American slave in the state of Virginia. Following the execution of Nat Turner, a local lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray, published “Confessions of Nat Turner: The Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Virginia” (1831), partly from research done while Turner was on the run, and partly from interviews with a prisoner Turner before the trial. This work is the main historical document on the Nate Turner, although its authenticity is put into question by some American historians. However, the author added more inspiring stories, such as the essence of neighborhoods to the society of enslaved people and the role of females in resisting enslavement along with connection of rebellion with other riots of slaves throughout the historical events.

The story is presented from the first person (narrative) of a historical figure and Negro slave, Nat, who started being preacher and finished his lifespan by arising revolt against White people in Virginia in 1831. The confessions of Nat Turner were written by him in the jail while waiting for his death punishment, i.e., execution. Thus K. Greenberg embraced all stories written in a cold autumn day and performed them in more sensitive, distressing, and emotional way to portray all pain and sadness carried by Nat and all African-American slaves in the USA.

It is no wonder that the history of slavery is kept in mind of billions of people across the globe. Enslavement is the darkest moment of every African-American individual who got into the trap of being a slave over many years. For the first time, African slaves were brought to Virginia by British colonists in 1619. According to 1860, among the 12 million of the American population in 15 states where slavery persisted, four million were enslaved African-Americans. Out of the 1.5 million families living in these states, more than 390 thousand families had slaves.

Torn between the economic benefits of enslavement and moral principles, the white slave owners of the South came up with excuses for their actions. They argued that black people, like kids, were unable to take care of themselves; that slavery was a charity, and that whites fed and wore out of kindness their workers. The inhabitants of the northern states had a different opinion, although they believed that blacks were inferior to white in development, it was not humane to make slaves out of them. In fact, the treatment of slaves was from soft and fatherly to cruel and even sadistic. Husbands, wives, and children were occasionally sold separately from each other, and beating for a crime was generally considered the norm. Southerners feared open rebellions, but it was rare.

Indeed, there are a lot of stories, books, movies, and articles about racism, segregation, slavery, and brutality toward Negros in the years of being a puppet. One of such people was Nat Turner, enslaved African-American, who believed that God sent him to do a mission: set all slaves free from the White nation. He wrote about his owners, visions, and attachment with Margaret (a white woman he was in love with). He confessed how much he hated whites for raping his mother, for treating slaves as animals, for being emotionally unstable in the rebellion of August’s night. Indeed, it was risky, unreasonable, and a bit odd to lead the small army of slaves against the vast amount of White people. Maybe all these visions were his hidden desires and deep thoughts regarding a plethora of disgusting and hurting moments from childhood till the last chapter of his life. Nat Turner wrote: “… I saw white spirits and black spirits engaged in battle, and the sun was darkened – the thunder rolled in the Heavens, and blood flowed in streams – and I heard a voice saying, “Such is your luck, such you are called to see, and let it come rough or smooth, you must surely bear it.”[1] Underestimating the value of these visions would be wrong. Turner considered it as his mission to give freedom to other slaves and save them. Even if he understood that killing a vast number of slave owners would not lead to the salvation and liberation of slaves, but he knew precisely what a blow it would be for them, and knew that this event would be imprinted in their memory for a long time.

Nevertheless, he took his leadership in hands no matter what. It shows how much he wanted to suppress whites, seek revenge, and make blacks equal along with everybody. Turner began the uprising on August 21, 1831, with the release of several trusted slaves. The rebels moved from house to house, freeing slaves and killing their masters. The rebels eventually included over seventy enslaved and free blacks. Turner believed that the majority of White people deserved to die since many of them harassed, raped, killed, torture, and scoffed their slaves on a daily basis.

However, Turner and his army were still kind despite their revenge and fury. They spared several houses of the poor because Turner believed that they did not live better than blacks. Turner also believed that revolutionary cruelty would serve to awaken white attitudes toward the reality of slave society, which was cruel. Turner later said that he would like to spread “horror and anxiety” among whites for all actions that had done to enslaved African-Americans.

The Turner’s rebellion was put down within two days, but Turner was hiding until October 30, when he was found hiding in a hole covered with boards from the fence. On November 5, 1831, he was convicted and sentenced to death. Nat Turner was hanged on November 11 in the city of Jerusalem (now Cortland), Virginia. His skin was torn off, beheaded, and quartered. After the uprising for the insurgency in Southampton and the crimes related to it, 45 slaves were convicted, including Turner himself, plus five free blacks. Of the 45 accused slaves, 15 were acquitted; of the 30 convicts, 18 were hanged, and 12 received a pardon and were sold by the state authorities. Out of the five free blacks convicted for participating in the uprising, only one was hanged while the rest were acquitted. Despite the transience of the rebellion, it cannot be argued that it was meaningless and did not lead to anything. Its most important result was an incredible psychological impact on the consciousness of the white Southerners.

The lack of humanity, kindness, decency, and modesty led to many violent and horrible occasions. There is the bulk of evidence acknowledging people of unethical and disgusting attitude toward slaves during many years. They had to forget their names, their existence, their feelings, and most significant, their freedom. Nat Turner was cruel as well while murdering whites, who tortured blacks day and night. Although, it should be viewed from the point of despair and fight for fairness. Some experts think it was wrong; some others are more understandable. As a result, the Nat Turner’s rebellion has been evolving in history, and he is still one of the most prominent figures for many human beings: not only African-American slaves but also for Americans as a whole.

Bibliography

Greenberg, K. The Confessions of Nat Turner: with Related Documents (2nd edition). New York, NY: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2016.


[1] Greenberg, The Confessions of Nat Turner: with Related Documents, 133

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

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freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]
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