The story of the emergence and overwhelming manifestation of African American Religion is rooted in the memoirs of the enslaved. Religion aided in innumerable pivotal roles in the progression and acceptance of American people and the African American church. Christianity, astoundingly, became the focal point of African American culture, despite the awareness that their oppressors had previously used the same doctrines of Christianity against them to justify 300+ years of slavery, genocide, and rape. The elucidation of why Christianity was so successful is beyond what any one book could bother to grasps. Albert Raboteau’s Canaan Land valiantly takes the charge to convey the often neglected narrative of the African American religious experience and it’s awe-inspiring capacity to instill meaning, hope, and dignity within a people(x).
African enslavement in the United States is easily the dumbest, vilest, and most inhumane concept ever constructed. The actuality that slavery occurred without a kink for so long is still incredibly inconceivable. How could one person declare that another person is less than human, and therefore create an entire institution of treating them as less than to prove that point? Where does one get that type of audacity and witlessness? One may never know the mental ideology behind the birth of US slavery but the chronological history starts in the year 1619 on a boat voyage that landed twenty captured Africans in Jamestown, VA. Slavery existed before that first boat across the Atlantic Ocean came ashore to America, but this slave trade was the first and only to use skin color as a basis of slave status so effectively. 10 to 12 million African mothers, fathers, sons and daughters survived the middle passage, a journey between their homeland across the Atlantic and onto American shores. Before they were here, Africans thought of themselves to be more than merely just Africans, but as Ibo, Akan or Wolof(7). Yes, these people had their own history, culture, language, art, and most importantly, religion. African people did not swing from trees and lack morality. They were completely complete, and needed no regulation from the strangers of other lands.
Contrary to that truth, the Eurocentrics of that period justified the capture and enslavement of African people by claim that they had a duty to spread the cultures and religions of Europe, because they were superior to other people(10). The owners of the enslaved essentially used the bible to rationalize and control slavery but, were ultimately afraid of a slave revolt, so they were vigilant about the ways in which slaves could learn about Christianity. White people knew that they were wrong. It would take only a matter of time for the enslaved to examine the content of the good book and know for sure that it was not in favor of slavery- and fundamentally cancel out the one defense that these slave masters were holding so firm to. For that reason, white supremacists made sure that religion was used as another means of controlling the minds and bodies of the enslaved, and that they did not believe in any hopes of freedom. In essence, baptism would free a slave. So, legislators passed a decree stating that baptism had no effect in regard to freedom and even enforced that the Black converts take an oath pledging that they didn’t desire religion with the hope of being free. If religion is a spiritual ideology, what would make the white legislators think they had any say in matters of the spiritual realm that was beyond their control? Even with these conditions attached to conversion, many brave or irrational Blacks took the oath anyway. Knowing that Christianity was the religion of their oppressor, and that they were supposed to have no hope of better days to come, some Blacks still had some semblance of optimism. Weird enough, the Black converts that converted to the Baptists and Methodist congregations, despite the opposition, believed that the...
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