AFAM NOTES 2

AFAM NOTES 2 - At the beginning of the transatlantic slave...

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At the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade , African religious beliefs and practices were numerous and varied . In addition to a wide variety of polytheistic religions, a significant portion of the continent had for centuries fallen under Islamic influence . Despite this diversity, there were some common threads across cultural groups. For instance, West African societies, the largest source for American slaves, shared a belief in a Supreme Creator, a chief deity among lesser gods, to whom they prayed and made sacrifices . Through laws and customs honoring the gods, the ancestors of one's people, and the elderly, West Africans sought a harmonious balance between the natural and spiritual worlds. Further, they made music and dance vital components of their worship practices. Enslaved men and women kept the rites, rituals, and cosmologies of Africa alive in America through stories, healing arts, song, and other forms of cultural expression, creating a spiritual space apart from the white European world. Africans and African descendents working in the early modern Atlantic commercial system were exposed to the world of European Christianity as early as the fifteenth century, when Portuguese missionaries came to the coasts of Africa. Some slaves, therefore, brought Christian beliefs with them when they were thrust into slavery. Others converted in America. During the seventeenth century blacks in the Dutch New Netherlands and Spanish Florida baptized their children and were married by the church. In part, this participation in the dominant European religion reflected (and helped to bring about) a colonial society in which blacks were more fully integrated and enjoyed greater rights than later generations of slaves would. However, slaves also saw conversion to Christianity as a road to freedom . In the early years of settlement, for instance, fugitive slaves from South Carolina, headed for Florida, where the Spanish Crown promised them freedom as a reward for conversion. Slaveholders in the British North American colonies became increasingly fearful that Christianization of slaves would lead to demands for emancipation. In 1667 Virginia passed a law declaring that conversion did not change the status of a person from slave to free. Other colonies passed similar laws during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. During the early eighteenth century Anglican missionaries attempting to bring
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This note was uploaded on 07/19/2010 for the course AFAM NA taught by Professor G during the Spring '10 term at UGA.

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AFAM NOTES 2 - At the beginning of the transatlantic slave...

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