Magazine article International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Was Christianity a Means of the Deafricanization and Social Control of Slaves? A Comparison of the Response of Free West Africans to Christianity with the Response of African Slaves in the United States
Was Christianity a Means of the Deafricanization and Social Control of Slaves? A Comparison of the Response of Free West Africans to Christianity with the Response of African Slaves in the United States.
By Johnson Ajibade Adefila. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen, 2011. Pp. iii, 171. $129.95 / 89.95.[pounds sterling]
Was Christianity a means of deafricanization and social control of slaves? Johnson AjibadeAdefila tackles the complex matter of comparing the impact Christian missionaries made on the religious and social activities of free West Africans living in their native lands with the impact of Christian preachers and teachers on enslaved Africans living in the United States.
The author clearly states his intention to "test the limits of the slaveholders' culture and ideological hegemony over the slaves" (p. 2) as a means of arguing that the institution of slavery did not deprive any slave of his or her personality or completely eradicate the slaves' cultural identities. Chapter I focuses on free West Africans' cultural and religious backgrounds and the continuation of these backgrounds in the experience of enslaved Africans. Eighteenth-century European Christian missionaries regarded West Africans as animists with no belief in a Supreme Being. The author refutes this premise, stating, "West Africans (or for that matter, all Africans) are, in their traditional lifestyles, deeply religious" (p. 16). By the nineteenth century, European missionaries were observing and recording the ethnological differences among the Yorubas and Igbos of southwestern and eastern Nigeria and noting recurring themes of "God" or "Deity" as a "Supreme Being" (pp. 17-22). The author's own words, however, weaken his argument that the worlds of the free West Africans and enslaved Africans in the United States were comparable: "The reality is, among WestAfricans, Christianity largely was adapted to meet people's mundane needs. …