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Role of the Church in Slavery

What role did women play in many of the early African societies?

Africa is a vast continent made up of fifty-four alluring countries. As of 2019, Africa inhabits 1.2 billion people. There are many studies specified to countries and regions of Africa such as Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria, Morocco, and Lesotho. What inspiring role did the beautiful women of Africa play in early African society?

African women influenced the innovation of music, agriculture, linguistics, politics, and religion. Africa is a predominantly agricultural continent. Between 65 to 80 percent of African women are engaged in the cultivation of food for their families. The women of Africa many different routes to show their authority – through organizations for women, as spiritual leaders, and as queen mothers, advising the male rulers, serving as co-rulers or regents. In West Africa, along the coast, female market traders acted as arbiters between European traders and local societies. Women were more likely to be slaves in Africa and that’s a reflection of reproductive and productive contributions to the communities. Women were more vulnerable to enslavement, but women were also slave owners, especially in areas where they had the chance to collect wealth through trading. When it came to politics, women’s activity was generally ignored and because of it, they had to find new ways to get things done.

Women are neglected and marginalized in the standard texts of African history, and few books have provided a complete positive overview of African women’s history. Women still have issues in the areas of polygyny, divorce, inheritance, and widowhood. Since the 1980s, the issue of HIV/AIDS has inflicted untold hardships on the women of Africa. Luckily, the last half of the 20th century also brought more opportunities for education, new job possibilities, increased involvement in politics, and improved family expectations. The most common and widely understood duties of women in Africa are cooking, cleaning, childcare, and agricultural work, including weeding and harvesting.

What role did the church play in slavery?

Religion played a big role in the story of slavery—at least from a slave’s perspective. Slaves often prayed to God for strength to get through the cruelness of it all. Believing there was a higher being out there that could bring them through made it a little bit more bearable. As they say, if you don’t believe in something, you’ll fall for anything. The church played a major role in the slave trade. As a matter of fact, the church was the backbone of the slave trade.

According to Jomo Kenyatta, who is the founding father and first president of Kenya, “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.” The slave trade was introduced by the coming of the Europeans and the Europeans came with the Bible. Sir John Hawkins was the first slave-ship captain to bring African slaves to the States and he was a religious gentleman who insisted his crew “serve God every day” and “love one another”. His ship was ironically called “the good ship Jesus”. There are numerous references to slavery in the Bible that can be interpreted to condone or condemn this practice.  For many early European explorers, the Bible was not only regarded as infallible, but it was also their primary reference tool for answers to explain differences in ethnicity, culture, and slavery.  Religion was a driving force during slavery. Some clergy tried to push the idea that it was actually possible to be a good slave and Christian.

Some call Christianity the “Secret religion of the slaves”. Not all slaves were Christian, nor did all the slaves accept Christianity, but the doctrines, symbols, and vision of life preached by Christianity were familiar to most. Religion among the slaves was both visible and invisible, organized formally, and adapted spontaneously. Texts from the Bible, which most slaves could not read, were explicated by verses from the spirituals sung by the slaves. Slaves forbidden by the masters to attend church or, even to pray, risked floggings to attend secret gatherings to worship God. A former slave, Wash Wilson recalled, “When de niggers go round singin’ ‘Steal Away to Jesus,’ dat mean dere gwine be a ’ligious meetin’ dat night. De masters … didn’t like dem ’ligious meetin’s so us natcherly slips off at night, down in de bottoms or somewhere. Sometimes us sing and pray all night.”  At the master’s church the message was always “serve your masters, don’t steal from your masters, and don’t disobey your masters”.

In America, all religious groups supported slavery. Blacks weren’t usually allowed to attend church services in the south and the churches that did allow blacks would segregate them from the white worshippers. Overall, the church most definitely played a large role in slavery. A role worth being talked about and remembered.

  • “Women And African History – African Studies – Oxford Bibliographies – Obo”. Oxfordbibliographies.Com, 2019, http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780199846733/obo-9780199846733-0005.xml.
  • “Women In Ancient Africa | Study.Com”. Study.Com, 2019, https://study.com/academy/lesson/women-in-ancient-africa.html.
  • “Women In Africa”. En.M.Wikipedia.Org, 2019, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Africa.
  • “BBC – Religions – Christianity: Atlantic Slave Trade And Abolition”. Bbc.Co.Uk, 2019, http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/history/slavery_1.shtml.
  • Slaves, The. “The Secret Religion Of The Slaves”. Christian History | Learn The History Of Christianity & The Church, 2019, https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-33/secret-religion-of-slaves.html.
  • “Religion And Slavery”. Spartacus Educational, 2019, https://spartacus-educational.com/USASreligion.htm.

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