The Exclusion of “Belle”

Maybe you saw the new costume drama Belle, which looks at issues of race and class during the time just before slavery was abolished in Great Britain. But what you might have missed (I certainly did) was how much the filmmakers left out – especially about the real abolitionists, and how they were motivated by faith:

Let’s be fair: Plenty of apologists beat the drum of Christian history simply to make noise. And certainly, entire cultures have never had institutionalized slavery and have also never experienced widespread Christian influence. There were plenty of abolitionists in the United States and Europe who were secularists. And plenty of so-called Christians used the Bible to make their case for slavery. So there is no sense in trying to prove that abolition was (or is today) a purely Christian cause.

But in this particular case—the case of the massacre on the slaving ship Zong, which is central to the film—Christianity mattered. It mattered because there really were people who advocated to the powers of England on behalf of the men, women, and children who were murdered aboard the Zong. They existed in real historical time and place.

Read the whole article here.


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