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The Confessions of Nat Turner

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  353 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
The Confessions of Nat Turner: The Leader of the Late Insurrection in Southampton, Virginia, is a first-hand account of Turner's confessions published by a local lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray, in 1831
Kindle Edition, 48 pages
Published 2008 (first published November 1831)
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DM Starting from the middle, I do not think that it was learned behaviour, but these behaviours would not have manifested without him witnessing and…moreStarting from the middle, I do not think that it was learned behaviour, but these behaviours would not have manifested without him witnessing and experiencing the brutal treatment of Africans and African Americans by white people. Swinging a hatchet is not something one has to learn per se.

What is the difference between Nat's behaviour and slave owners'? Positions of power. White people and slave owners were in a position of power over black people, and they acted violently because they were socialized to do so--it was considered normal or necessary to enforce cultural power. Nat's violence comes from the lower end of the power relationship, because no other form of action was effective for demonstrating one's rights. If a white man told a black man to do something, the black man would be culturally bound to do it at the risk of punishment. If a black man told a white man to do something, the white man is culturally bound /not/ to do it, and to punish. Words or any other persuasive technique were not effective for slaves to exert their rights, so violence was the only option to turn to. White people turned to violence because they could.

Is one behaviour more justified? Which behaviours are you asking about? Slave-owning versus killing someone who you are bound by? Or do you mean killing slaves versus killing the person who binds you? When you say "the law says so", do you mean the law that says murder is wrong or the law that says slave-owning is legal? My interpretation of this question is, "Is slave-owning and brutalizing more justified than murder simply because the law defends it?" I would answer no, slave-owning is not justified by anything ever, to the extremity that even something as ghastly as murder pales in front of it. However, I don't know if this is the question you were asking, because I can't tell whether these are simply discussion questions or hinting at a certain perspective.(less)

Community Reviews

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Alex
Mar 03, 2015 Alex rated it really liked it
In 1831 Nat Turner led the largest slave uprising in American history, murdering 60 white men, women and children with a mob of slaves in Virginia. Some dude went and interviewed him in prison, and this claims to be his first-person account of his life and revolt.

The motives of the dude - a white slaveowner named Thomas Ruffin Gray - have been questioned quite a bit, as has the authenticity of the whole thing. There were a bunch of witnesses to the confession, but of course none who were sympath
...more
Christopher Sutch
While reading this short pamphlet what occurred to me frequently was the question of its authenticity. Not that I wondered whether Nat Turner led a slave uprising in Virgina that resulted in several whites being slaughtered and many slaves, both those involved and those not involved in the uprising itself, being killed in retaliation by gangs of frightened slaveholders. But, rather, whether these "confessions" of Nat Turner, supposedly written down accurately by a white lawyer while Turner was i ...more
Jessaka
I read this first when I was taking a black history class in college. I can't even recall what I thought of It back then. Well, yes I do. I remember wanting him to win. I also remember how sometimes the slaves fed their master's ground glass, and how on the slave ships many lived in their own excretions and many died. I remember how the masters would use thump screws on their slaves in order to cause them pain, and I remember the whippings.

Nat Turner was a slave back in the 1830s and confesses t
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Linds
Short, succinct, account of the Nat Turner rebellion. What makes it special is that is an oral account by Nat Turner himself. He comes off as intelligent, articulate, charismatic, and a bit mystical. He is also oddly calm both about the previous rebellion and his upcoming execution. The interviewer of the time, a white southerner, gives off the impression and tries to convey a tone that he is interviewing a monster a la Charles Manson instead of the leader of a revolution.

For those that don't kn
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Paul
Feb 03, 2017 Paul rated it it was ok
Actual rating: 2.5 stars.

This is the original "Confessions of Nat Turner," not the 1967 William Styron novel but a 24-page summary of an interview with the actual Nat Turner, written by Thomas R. Gray, a lawyer seeking to cash in on the sensation surrounding one of the few slave uprisings to occur in the American South.

Starting with six accomplices, Nat Turner led a short-lived revolt in the country near Southhampton, Virginia, in August, 1831. Starting in the dark of night, Turner and his group
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Steven
Dec 03, 2013 Steven rated it liked it
This seems much more the product of Thomas R. Gray than Nat Turner. I noticed the odd phrase, "work of death" appear several times through the document. It appeared once in Gray's introduction, and a few more times attributed to Turner's confession, and again at the end by Gray. Gray, who was supposedly Turner's lawyer was never very sympathetic toward Turner. Another odd phrase attributed to Nat Turner was this, "we entered, and murdered Mrs. Reese in her bed, while sleeping; her son awoke, but ...more
John
Oct 08, 2016 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this before seeing the movie

The movie BIRTH OF A NATION has just been released, so I decided to read this short pamphlet prior to seeing the movie. If you read this pamphlet several things will catch your attention not the least is Nat Turner's religious experiences along with his extreme violence. The reader should be attentive also to his remarks about his own experiences of being a slave. Beware of judging an event when reading participants' views of events and later authors, screenwrite
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Miles Smith
One of the most enduring and important primary sources in the field of southern history. Despite describing a series of graphic murders in the United States' only successful slave rebellion, Turner nonetheless appears sympathetic in this account rendered by a Virginia magistrate. The rebellion led to a series of reactionary measures against enslaved persons and especially against free blacks across the South. It also instilled a not-unreasoned paranoia in the South that affected socio-politcal d ...more
Will
May 29, 2016 Will rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"On Mr. Phipps' discovering the place of my concealment, he cocked his gun and aimed at me. I requested him not to shoot and I would give up, upon which he demanded my sword. I delivered it to him, and he brought me to prison. During the time I was pursued, I had many hair breadth escapes, which your time will not permit you to relate. I am here loaded with chains, and willing to suffer the fate that awaits me.

I here proceeded to make some inquiries of him after assuring him of the certain deat
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Bernice Watson
Nov 02, 2015 Bernice Watson rated it really liked it
Interesting read, but I question if this confession is indeed authentic as translated by the white lawyer T.R. Grey. I know historically that the events did happen, but find it hard that Nat Turner would remember the details of the roads taken, on his killing spree, so clearly while under so much stress and horrendous anger. I believe this confession was interpreted with an expansion of words and details. Nat Turner believed he was given this mission by God. He believed that the signs in the sky ...more
Larissa
Written from the slaveholder perspective, although it asserts it's total truthfulness, I cannot help but find this suspect. It is certainly fascinating. Sad and violent from both sides and also at odds with the more admirable writings of MLK jr. Three stars for inability to know if this is really his true testimony. Although the man who conducted these interviews wasn't at all dreaming in his execution, while still recognizing Turner was a violent murderer.
Betsy
Oct 05, 2012 Betsy rated it really liked it
A historical document produced at the time of the trial of Nat Turner and including his narrative of the slave rebellion led by him in Virginia, 1831. It is especially interesting to observe how Nat Turner and the event are framed by Turner's white interlocutor, Thomas Gray, who visited him in jail prior to his execution and published it. A must read for anyone interested in the history of racism and its consequences in the United States.
Kendy
Feb 06, 2017 Kendy rated it it was amazing
good
Katy
Dec 01, 2013 Katy rated it really liked it
The transcript of the confession of the leader of the 1831 slave rebellion in which 55 whites were killed and later 56 slaves were convicted, tried and killed, leading to the oppressive black codes of the pre-Civil War South.
Nick Jessen
Historically Important, but not literature

It was interesting to read the account at the time it was written. I don't think that it was the most accurate representation of fact, but it did shed some light on other works from the time.
LIONELL WILSON
Oct 31, 2016 LIONELL WILSON rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From his own words

A good read. It was interesting to get a peek into the world of Nat Turner. Reading things from his perspective. A slice of history that escapes the history books.
Jenae
Sep 04, 2016 Jenae rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is suspect.

The language used by Gray is clearly a byproduct of a white man who felt Turner did more wrong than did the system of slavery, which caused this rebellion. Two stars for the possibility of this being a somewhat accurate depiction of what Turner was thinking.
Kirk Dobihal
May 04, 2016 Kirk Dobihal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this prior to taking on Styron's pulitzer. Easy fast read sets the story of the massacre.
Chelsea Easter
Jul 17, 2009 Chelsea Easter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
VERY short, but detail description from Turner himself. His tone when describing the events of that night is so calm. Great story.
Julie
Mar 23, 2016 Julie rated it really liked it
Quick and gruesome to visualize.
Jon Jackson
Oct 15, 2016 Jon Jackson rated it liked it
Thoroughly disturbing. An indictment against the systems that humans create and the inherent evil that lies within those systems as well as men.
Tara
Jun 20, 2016 Tara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quick Easy Read

Quick treadmill read now to find another book on him. #historynerd.
I love the eloquent writing of the time period.
Danzaiss
Oct 27, 2016 Danzaiss rated it really liked it
A short, interesting piece of history that foreshadows the Civil War.
gordon
Extremely intersting after meeting and reading Styron's book.
Jerome Han
Jerome Han rated it really liked it
Mar 04, 2016
Vania Kensey-Williams
Vania Kensey-Williams rated it it was amazing
Jun 02, 2016
Djehuti-En-Ra-Meryamun
Djehuti-En-Ra-Meryamun rated it it was amazing
Apr 05, 2017
Josefine
Josefine rated it it was ok
Oct 07, 2015
Brenda Heard
Brenda Heard rated it it was amazing
Mar 19, 2014
Rhonda Long
Rhonda Long rated it it was amazing
Dec 06, 2016
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African-American Slave who started the largest slave rebellion in the antebellum southern United States.

His court confession has been released as a book.
More about Nat Turner...

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