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FORUM ON KATHARINE GERBNER'S CHRISTIAN SLAVERY: CONVERSION AND RACE IN THE PROTESTANT ATLANTIC WORLD: Introductory Remarks

  • Jon Sensbach

Extract

Between roughly 1500 and nearly the end of the nineteenth century, slave traders sent more than twelve million enslaved Africans to the Americas. It is no secret that Christianity was deeply complicit with the rise of the plantation system that created the lethally voracious demand for forced labor. Two basic questions have preoccupied historians studying the links between religion and slavery: why did Christianity become an ideological bulwark for human bondage; and why did enslaved Africans and their descendants begin to embrace a religion so friendly to slavery, inverting it into a spiritual vernacular of liberation and transcendence? Whereas historians of Atlantic world Protestantism have mostly probed these questions in their North American contexts, Katherine Gerbner's book, Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World, shifts the focus to the Caribbean of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Protestant missionaries there began proselytizing among enslaved Africans at least half a century earlier than in North America, creating connections between race, religion, and slavery that would prove perniciously durable across both time and region. In this forum, four distinguished scholars consider the implications of Gerbner's work.

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1 Gerbner, Katharine, Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018).

FORUM ON KATHARINE GERBNER'S CHRISTIAN SLAVERY: CONVERSION AND RACE IN THE PROTESTANT ATLANTIC WORLD: Introductory Remarks

  • Jon Sensbach

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