Slavery and the Churches in Early America, 1619-1819

Slavery and the Churches in Early America, 1619-1819

Slavery and the Churches in Early America, 1619-1819

Slavery and the Churches in Early America, 1619-1819

Excerpt

This book is a study of the relationship between slavery and Christianity in North America during the first two centuries of black residency here. For purposes of analysis those two centuries have been divided at 1700 and 1763 to produce three more or less standard periods: colonial, provincial, and revolutionary-early national. The general development of slavery in these periods is described in chapters 2, 4, and 7. These are followed for each period by chapters 3, 5, 6, and 8 which focus more narrowly on Christian behavior relating to slavery.

The terms churches and Christianity mean the same thing in this study. Because historians have no tools for constructing normative definitions, there is no way of limiting a study to what Christianity "ought" to have been. Therefore to speak of Christian behavior is to speak of the words and deeds of those who were members of churches or who were called Christians in any sense other than as a bare synonym for "Europeans" or "Americans."

It must also be kept in mind that in the age of colonization, nearly all Christians assumed that religious institutions had to be closely tied to political, economic, and social ones. This fact creates a problem for the student of Christianity in the British colonies. Although virtually all of the colonists were thought of as Christians in some respect, it is not very illuminating to speak of all colonial behavior as Christian. Thus I have followed the course of looking at the colonists when they were engaged in those activities in which they were most aware of themselves as religious persons: at worship, preaching or lecturing, seeking and initiating new members, defining proper behavior . . .

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