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On anti-slavery Christianity

Summary

Albert J. Raboteau tells the story of a slave petition that called on Americans to act on their beliefs.

Summary

Albert J. Raboteau tells the story of a slave petition that called on Americans to act on their beliefs.

Transcript

Very early on, Christianity became in the hands of slaves a means for attacking their own enslavement. And in the 1770s, just as the colonies are beginning to demand independence from Great Britain, there’s an interesting petition that’s sent by slaves in Massachusetts to the General Court of Massachusetts, saying we did not give up our freedom by any compact whatsoever but were dragged into unjust slavery in the bowels of a Christian nation without any recourse. And we are now appealing for our freedom for the same reason that you are appealing for your freedoms from Great Britain. So they began to use both the civil religion of America – the notion of democracy and freedom from tyranny – and the religious basis of American society, saying how can you do this? How can you hold us in slavery in the bowels of a free and Christian nation? So they used from a very early period the notion of Christianity and the notion of American civic piety as antithetical to the beliefs of Americans.