Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic, 1760-1835
This study focuses on the role of early African American
Christianity in the formation of American egalitarian religion and
politics. It also provides a new context for understanding how
black Christianity and evangelism developed, spread, and interacted
with transatlantic religious cultures of the eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries. Cedrick May looks at the work of a group of
pivotal African American writers who helped set the stage for the
popularization of African American evangelical texts and the
introduction of black intellectualism into American political
culture: Jupiter Hammon, Phillis Wheatley, John Marrant, Prince
Hall, Richard Allen, and Maria Stewart.
Religion gave these writers agency and credibility, says May,
and they appropriated the language of Christianity to establish a
common ground on which to speak about social and political rights.
In the process, these writers spread the principles that enabled
slaves and free blacks to form communities, a fundamental step in
resisting oppression. Moreover, says May, this institution building
was overtly political, leading to a liberal shift in mainstream
Christianity and secular politics as black churches and the
organizations they launched became central to local communities and
increasingly influenced public welfare and policy.
This important new study restores a sense of the complex
challenges faced by early black intellectuals as they sought a path
to freedom through Christianity.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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