Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nat Turner's "Confessions"

Nat Turner's "Confessions": In the early morning hours of August 21, 1831, a slave rebellion erupted in Southampton County, Virginia. Led by Nat Turner, an African-American slave who saw himself as a prophet, the insurrection resulted in nearly 200 deaths overall. Although the revolt only lasted two days, Turner evaded capture until October 30, 1831. While awaiting trial, Turner's lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray, visited him in jail. Gray subsequently proceeded to interview Turner about why he decided to organize and carry out such a heinous act. Turner's responses were deeply religious. Rooted in Judeo-Christian principles, Turner wished to deliver his people from bondage, much like Moses and the ancient Hebrews in the Book of Exodus. He claimed to have visions from God, which inspired him to take up arms. There were solar eclipses and other celestial happenings that also pushed Turner to act. After the interview, Gray compiled his notes into a book and published it as The Confessions of Nat Turner. But to what extent can this book be considered historical evidence? Authorship is the primary question of concern, as Turner merely dictated his responses to Gray. Nevertheless, the book does offer valuable insight into Turner's mind.

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