9/7- When “Morality” Meets Slavery

Dr. Francis Le Jau’s account of the conversion of the African-American slaves of Goose Creek parish might, to some modern white Christians, ring as evidence of Christianity’s tendency towards good. Clearly Le Jau does argue that there are “sensible and honest Negroe Slaves”(Sernett 27). Indiana University’s summary of The Carolina Chronicle of Dr. Francis LeJau, 1706–1717 even calls Le Jau a “keen and fair-minded man”. Furthermore, he even advocates for better treatment of slaves, saying that “[slaveowners’] Neglect is an habitual state of sin” (Sernett 31). Are these not the words of a man resentful of the treatment of his fellow man? Is white Puritanism independent of the sins of racism propagated by Euro-Americans at the time? Hardly.

The fact of the matter is that Le Jau does not see these slaves as humans. He even confides that he “[has] thought it most convenient not to urge too far that Indians and Negroes shou’d be indifferently admitted to learn to read” (Sernett 28). His sympathy toward the African-Americans in his parish is only that- pity. His benign neglect of the slaves’ plight of slavery, as Ralph Ellison says in the introduction to Invisible Man, “[translates] ‘Keep those Negroes running- but in their same old place’”. He feigns interest, concern. But in the end, Le Jau’s concerns are about as useful as the neglect shown by the slaveowners- misplaced and misleading. Sure, he will give the slaves hope of personhood- but in the end they must remember that they are still slaves.



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