Slave Religion

Religion and the making of Nat Turner’s Virginia provides a new interpretation of the rise of evangelical Christianity in the early American South by reconstructing the complex, biracial history of the Baptist movement in southeastern Virginia. To me, this region and its religious history became a subject of intense national scrutiny in the wake of the 1831 revolt led by the enslaved preacher and prophet Nat Turner. By the time Virginia’s religious landscape had already been shaped by the conflict about the implications of evangelical faith for the evolving cluster of interrelated ideas about race, slavery, household, family, and patriarchy that constituted the state’s social order. For black Virginians, evangelical discourses of authority, community, and meaning provided the material for a wide variety of interpretations of Christianity’s social and spiritual message during the eras. The trend toward separation and segregation of black and religion in the antebellum period and had powerful, lasting effects on race relations and religious culture in America.

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