Essay on African Slave Religion

Words: 1756
Pages: 8

The Community of Enslaved Africans and their Religious & Spiritual Practices.

During a most dark and dismal time in our nations history, we find that the Africans who endured horrible circumstances during slavery, found ways of peace and hope in their religious beliefs. During slavery, African's where able to survive unbearable conditions by focusing on their spirituality. Christianity was amongst the slave community. Being that the vast majority of the slave community was born in America, converting slaves to Christianity was not a struggle. All slaves were not Christian, and slaves that had accepted Christianity were not official members of the church. Over time Slaves made Christianity their own. There would be occurrences where
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I felt like a bird out of a cage. Amen. Amen. Amen. I could hardly ask to feel any better than I did on that day.

-- Houston Holloway, former slave from Georgia recalling the moment that slavery ended The primary function of the spirituals was as communal songs sung in a religious gathering, performed in a call-response pattern reminiscent of West African traditional religions. As Raboteau points out, one person would begin to create a song by singing about his or her own sorrow or joy. That individual experience was brought to the community and through the call-response structure of the singing, that individual's sorrow or joy became the community's sorrow or joy. In this way, the spiritual became truly affirming, for it provided communal support for individual experiences. Slaves used the characters of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, to tell their stories. Jesus was called upon to help the individual find God who would set them free "on the inside." It was while the person had been "touched on the inside" that slaves believed they came in intimate contact with God and the heroes of the Bible. That intimate, immediate relationship is present throughout the spirituals, with Jesus and the characters of the Old Testament presented not as some far off deities, but as friends and family members who helped the individual in his or her struggle. The spirituals, then, tell the story of a spiritual journey toward spiritual freedom, while encouraging those