Mormons, Race, and Slavery

Reeve

In the middle of 1870, Scipio Africanus Kenner feared losing the girl he loved. For some time, he had been courting Isabel Park with her family’s encouragement. Then, suddenly, Park’s mother cooled on the match and asked Kenner never to visit the home again. Park, however, did not stop seeing Kenner. According to Kenner, Agnes [Read More...]

Evangelical Anti-abolitionists

Robert J. Breckinridge, ca. 1845

Even in slaveholding states, many white Americans were uneasy about the morality of black slavery in the decades that preceded the Civil War. However, there were two things such Americans disliked far more than slavery: black people and abolitionists. According to Luke Harlow’s recently published Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, those double [Read More...]

How Violent Was American Slavery? Colonial Slave Codes

Last week I wrote about the challenges colonial American missionaries faced when trying to evangelize slaves without fundamentally challenging the institution of slavery. Starting in the eighteenth century, growing numbers of Christians began to express concerns about the immorality of slavery, at least slavery as practiced in the Americas. But when they turned to Scripture, [Read More...]

Evangelizing Slaves and Colonial Christianity

I recently read Travis Glasson’s excellent book Mastering Christianity: Missionary Anglicanism and Slavery in the Atlantic World (Oxford, 2012). This book details the complex relationship between enslaved people, slave masters, and the missionaries of the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), which began a major outreach effort to the North American colonies in the [Read More...]

Runaway Slave Ads and the Violence of Slavery

In research for my colonial America book, I recently came across a runaway slave ad cited in Ira Berlin’s masterful Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. The ad appeared in the Maryland Gazette in 1766, one of countless such ads seeking the return of runaways from southern farms and plantations in the [Read More...]

Recovering Lemuel Haynes: Patriot Hero, African American Pastor

When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, the implications of “all men are created equal” for America’s slaves was uncertain, at least to the delegates to the Continental Congress, many of whom (like Jefferson) owned slaves themselves. There was no doubt about the Declaration’s meaning to many free and enslaved African Americans, however. Lemuel [Read More...]

Slavery: America’s Original Sin?

[This week's post is from my archives at Patheos.] The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has a touring exhibit entitled “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty.” At the front of the Smithsonian display stands a life-size statue of Jefferson, backed by a panel listing the known names of about 600 slaves who worked for Jefferson [Read More...]

DANIEL SYNDROME

I have been writing on some quite diverse topics recently, including “faith on the borderlands,” and Christianity in Early Britain. I hadn’t actually intended to bring them together, but they appear to be merging of their own accord. This may be a dumb question, but has anyone written a book on current and former slaves [Read More...]

The Evangelical Impulse Behind the Abolition of Slavery

Did you get a chance to watch The Abolitionists last night on PBS?  If you missed it, you can watch the first episode  here.  The series focuses on five nineteenth-century abolitionists–Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Brown, and Angelina Grimke–and their fight to end slavery in America.  As I watched the show [Read More...]

The “Regulated Freedom” of James Henley Thornwell, Antebellum Southern Presbyterian

Sunday was the 200th birthday of James Henley Thornwell, the South Carolina Presbyterian pastor and professor whom Eugene Genovese and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese called the antebellum South’s “most formidable theologian.” Thornwell was a great champion of what he called the “regulated freedom” of antebellum slave society. Historian George Bancroft once described Thornwell as “the most learned [Read More...]


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