According to Webster Dictionary, a confession is a written or oral acknowledgement of guilt by a party accused of an offense. And this is exactly how I began reading Nat Turner’s “Confession”. Although I was a bit skeptical of the tone of Thomas Gray’s tone in the introduction, I pushed it aside and read the confession as if each word were exiting Nat Turner’s mouth.
Reading the confession, I became very disturbed. It was surprising that Turner’s reason for the uprising was due to him feeling divinely called to it. I expected there to be an intense explanation of the treacheries of slavery. But as the confession progressed, I couldn’t help but notice the power of purpose. As strange as his reasoning seemed, I thought it was amazing that he stuck to what he believed his purpose was. He says, “I now began to prepare them for my purpose, by telling them something was about to happen that would terminate in fulfilling the great promise that had been made to me-“. Not only did he venture to do his purpose, but was able to bring others into its doing.
He also said that, as a child, he kept hearing people say he “had too much sense to be raised, and if I was, I would never be of any service to any one as a slave-“. I think this serves as a connection to his purpose. People are constantly telling him he’d do no good as a slave, yet he’s a slave. And he has marks on his body from whippings and maltreatment. He also explains he had a vision of black and white spirits in battle. So everything he’s seeing is implanting the idea that he isn’t where he should be, he needs to get there, and he sees what/who is hindering him from reaching it. This makes a lot of sense when we see who they targeted; white slave owners. These are the people hindering him from reaching his purpose, or even, the people his purpose tells him to get rid of.
After reading the confession, however, I realized that this may all or mostly be made up by Thomas Gray. It is possible that he manipulated Nat Turner’s words to make him sound crazy and inhumane. And I’m sure this “confession” justified the disrespect given to Turner’s body upon his death. It’s sad that we can’t be absolutely certain of the motive behind what he did.