Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery/Revolutionary Emancipation: Slavery and Abolitionism in the British West Indies/Everyday Life in the Early English Caribbean: Irish, Africans, and the Construction of Difference

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery/Revolutionary Emancipation: Slavery and Abolitionism in the British West Indies/Everyday Life in the Early English Caribbean: Irish, Africans, and the Construction of Difference

Article excerpt

Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery. By Noel Erskine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014, Pp. x, 216. $26.95); Revolutionary Emancipation: Slavery and Abolitionism in the British West Indies. By Claudius K. Fergus (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013, Pp. xiv, 271. $45.00); Everyday Life in the Early English Caribbean: Irish, Africans, and the Construction of Difference. By Jenny Shaw (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2013, Pp. xv, 259. $29.95.)

Scholars exploring the history of the Caribbean enjoy the benefit of and face the challenges that attend study of a region featuring diverse groups of people, complex social and economic systems, and a variety of religious movements. Recent literature has illuminated much of this diversity, and the three books under examination in this essay enrich our understanding on the fronts of religion, opposition to slavery, and the fault lines of identity in the Caribbean. In Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery, Noel Erskine considers the dynamics that shaped Christianity as practiced by enslaved peoples in the West Indies. Claudius Fergus argues for a reconsidering of the agency of African slaves in resisting slavery in Revolutionary Emancipation: Slavery and Abolitionism in the British West Indies. In Everyday Life in the Early English Caribbean: Irish, Africans, and the Construction of Difference, Jenny Shaw demonstrates that a simple black-white binary approach to identity in the British West Indies is inadequate.

Leading with a theoretical rather than an historical approach, in Plantation Church, Noel Erskine focuses on adaptations of Christianity by enslaved Africans in the Caribbean. Nevertheless, Erskine intersperses historical observations throughout his text. Many of these are general in nature rather than specific insights based upon primary source evidence. For example, he points out that oppressed people in the Caribbean could discern that the Anglican and Catholic churches "were not on their side" (26). Erskine emphasizes agency of enslaved peoples in forging their own religious identity and drawing upon traditional African faiths, and he points out that the embrace of Christianity was done so in a context with numerous choices (140). Through a helpful synthesis of scholarly literature and primary-source evidence, Erskine offers intriguing ideas as the roots of AfricanAmerican and Caribbean Christianity are considered.

In Revolutionary Emancipation, Claudius Fergus posits that the majority of scholarship on abolition has unduly emphasized the role of Europeans and other outsiders while failing to recognize the power of enslaved people's agitations and rebellions in ending the institution of chattel slavery. According to Fergus, "The simultaneous revolts across the Caribbean were not isolated events but fronts of a common war against slavery-an expanded Haitian Revolution" (75). …

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