Term Paper: African-American Literature

Pages: 3 (1085 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] What it does not tell you, is that it will show the reader (from vantage point of slave) how this practice is wrong.

The Confession of Nate Turner

In The Confession of Nate Turner, Thomas Gray is speaking for Nate Turner. He is slave who led the largest uprising in U.S. history. What happened was Turner published a pamphlet before his death that described: how and why the 1831 insurrection would occur in Virginia. As he was able to lead a group of slaves who: overpowered and gained control of South Hampton Country, Virginia. Once the uprising was over is when Turner would tell everything that happened with these events to his attorney (Thomas Gray). He would then take these conversations and distribute them as a pamphlet for the public to read.

In the literature, Gray is painting Turner as someone who knowingly violated the law and is unremorseful about the actions that they have engaged in. Where, he is seen as a fugitive slave who planned on murdering white people. Evidence of this can be seen with Gray writing, "Whilst everything upon the surface wore a calm and peaceful aspect. A gloomy fanatic was revolving in the recesses of his own dark, bewildered and overwrought schemes to indiscriminately massacre all of the whites." (Gray, 1856, pg. 338) This is significant, because it is showing how Gray is trying to make Turner out to be a criminal that is confessing to his crimes.

When you compare this with Turner's accounts, he believes that his insurrection is a larger plan of God's to end slavery for good. Evidence of this can be seen with Turner saying, "I was placed under an overseer for whom I ran away and remained in the woods for thirty days. I returned to the astonishment of everyone on the plantation, who thought that I had escaped to some other part of the country. But the reason of my return was that the Spirit appeared to me and told me to return to the service of my earthly master." (Gray, 1856, pg. 342) This is significant, because Turner is justifying how God wanted him to lead an uprising as part of his overall plan. When you compare this with Gray's account, Turner is taking a religious tone to justify his actions. While Gray, is making him out to be a criminal that is confessing to this crimes.

What both works are showing; is how they are critiquing white exploration about the institution of slavery. This is accomplished by having the prologue at the beginning of these works, written by someone who will try to set the tone of what is being read. While at the same time, this is creating a new genre of literary expression for African-Americans. As, they were able to discuss the ideas and issues that they believe need to be explored by the rest of society (the abolition of slavery). Over the course of time, this would lead to changes in views about this issue based upon this new form of literature.


Douglas, F. (1845). Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass. Staten Island, NY: Forgotten Books.

Gray, T. (1856). The Confessions of Nat Turner. Tale of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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African-American Literature.  (2011, October 26).  Retrieved July 23, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/african-american-literature/812243

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"African-American Literature."  Essaytown.com.  October 26, 2011.  Accessed July 23, 2019.