Nat Turner's Confessions and Frederick Douglass' The Heroic Slave

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Nat Turner's Confessions and Frederick Douglass' The Heroic Slave


The names of Nat Turner and Frederick Douglass are remembered because of the fame that they earned as black Americans during pre-Civil War slave period. However, their names color the pages of history books for widely different reasons: Nat Turner led one of the greatest slave revolts in almost 150 years of slavery, while Frederick Douglass obtained his freedom and education, going on to become a renowned speaker, author, and public leader.

Nat Turner's insurrection in Southampton, Virginia in 1831 was a massacre of over sixty slaveholders and subsequently many slaves as Turner and his alliance of slaves joined together in protest of their enslavement. The story of the
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Turner was born in Southampton County, Virginia in the year 1800. He mentions that his father escaped from slavery but he and his mother remained enslaved until his death. He is recorded as claiming that he was not ill-treated and that his masters were kind and placed confidence in him. Douglass, on the other hand, was born in Maryland and never knew his exact birth date or the identity of his father, who allegedly was a white man. He was separated from his mother while still an infant. He recalls being one of about thirty slaves under the authority of a very severe and cruel overseer. Little is known about Turner's childhood, but he relates memories of his having some kind of extraordinary perceptions that differentiated him from other people; this supposedly guided him to lead the rebellion.

Both Turner and Douglass could read and write. It is vague how Turner learned, but his use was mostly for religious purposes such as reading and teaching the Bible. The wife of Douglass' second master educated him. He felt self-motivated to learn because his master was so adamantly opposed to it; Douglass found ways to obtain his education without his master's knowing of it and he became well read, making the best use of his education. Turner's education was narrower and scanty compared to that of Douglass. For Douglass, it was through his education that he learned about opportunity and the free north, motivating him to seek freedom and use his education. Turner's…

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