Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

In Ol’ Prophet Nat, Daniel Panger presents the journal of Nat Turner, the leader of the most famous slave rebellion in the antebellum American South. Turner’s rebellion took place in the summer of 1831 in Southhampton County, Virginia. For several days and nights, he and a small group of followers terrorized a section of the county in an attempt to start a revolt that would free slaves in that region and beyond. Panger introduces the work by telling how he first heard of Turner and how he finally came across the old Bible in which Turner’s journal was scribbled. At points throughout the text, Panger interjects his own comments or explanations, and he concludes the book with a brief recounting of Turner’s capture and execution. For the most part, however, the book is Turner’s, told in his own words and through his eyes.

Ol’ Prophet Nat has no chapter divisions or other breaks. It follows a general chronological path from Turner’s childhood through the rebellion and to the point where, presumably, he was captured while in the middle of writing a sentence. Yet the journal is no straight autobiography. What Turner brings out are the crisis points in his life that led him eventually to plan and carry out his desperate attempt to gain freedom for his people.

Some of these crises involve mistreatment of himself or other African Americans at the hands of whites. One of his earliest memories was of his mother being...

(The entire section is 474 words.)