Spreading the Faith: Daniel Syndrome

Another in a series of posts about the many and various ways in which religions spread – often by people who originally had no intention whatever of becoming missionaries, or indeed of leaving their homes. Sometimes, people really do set out to spread their religion to new parts of the world, and they enjoy great [Read More…]

Branching Paths and Alternate Histories

I have long valued Rick Perlstein as an excellent scholar of recent American history, chiefly working on the 1960s and 1970s. Based on his recent writings, I also see that he must be a superlative teacher. Please bear those comments in mind when I express some disagreement with him on the theme of counter-factual history, [Read More…]

Adventures in Parenting as a Historian: The American Girl Books

On seeing history through the eyes of a seven year old, as she reads American Girl books for the first time. [Read more…]

Highlights from the 2016 Meeting of the Conference on Faith and History

Race, gender, identity… and Donald Trump. Revisiting the 2016 meeting of the Conference on Faith and History – the first to be displaced by a presidential campaign rally! [Read more…]

Mormons, Race, and Slavery

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

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…]