Converting African American Slaves to Christianity

Converting African American Slaves to Christianity

By 1810 Slave trade to the United States had for the most part stopped and the African American slave population began to increase naturally. This allowed slaves to adopt their own religious practices which were authentically “African-American”. Noticing the opportunity to gain a large amount of new members, Southern clergymen began to try and convert slaves to Christianity using various tactics.<p>One way religious leaders attempted to convert slaves was to preach a message that all slaves wanted to hear. This message was that all Christians were equal in the eyes of God. Hearing this gave the slaves hope and a reason to live. When they felt unloved and hated by their masters it helped to know that someone bigger than them all loved them and cared for them.</p><p>Another tactic to convert slaves was to hold services similar to those the slaves held themselves. These services often times involved enthusiastic singing, clapping, dancing, and even spirit-possession. Not having to change their style of worship made the African-Americans more comfortable attending Christian services.</p><p>Despite these appeals to the slaves, many white slave owners forced their slaves to attend white controlled churches because they afraid that if the slaves worshipped on their own they would be more likely to rebel. Slaves did not like these white churches because they promoted obedience to their owners which slaves considered a contradiction to the messages of equality and liberation they were being told.</p><p>On some plantations where slaves were forced to attend white services they began to secretly practice their own forms of Christianity, an action that would not be tolerated if the white slave owners found out. The slaves used secret signals and other hidden forms of communication to inform each other about upcoming meetings. These secret meeting became known as “hush harbors”. These meetings often times included church, psychological refuge from the toils of slavery, and organization for rebellions. For many of the slaves, these meeting were one of the few times they felt hope and meaning during their enslavement.</p><p>One contradiction to the slave’s cause in the Christian bible was a quote that read “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear.” Although this seemed to ruin the slave’s chances of freedom another quote said “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both your Master and theirs is in heaven and there is no favoritism with him.” This at least promised the slaves good treatment while in slavery.</p><p>Obviously the slaves were eventually freed. With this freedom, the slaves had an opportunity to freely choose a religion. Many of them continued on with the Christianity they had learned while enslaved. Today more than 90% of African-Americans who attend church attend one of seven black dominated Christian denominations.</p><!– [zone48] 630×220 –>

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