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"S" is for Slave religion

South Carolina From A to Z
SC Public Radio

"S" is for Slave religion. Enslaved Africans brought their traditional belief systems with them and little effort was made to evangelize them until the 1820s—because some slaveholder thought conversion required emancipation. For all their differences, traditional African beliefs and Christianity had important points of convergence. A creator God was present in both, and the Christian Trinity and angels were suggestive of a multiplicity of deities. Also the story of death and resurrection was familiar to West and South Central Africans who believed in reincarnation. The brand of Christianity that enslaved Carolinians practice was highly Africanized; they did not passively accept the faith as given but reshaped and embellished it according to their own culture. In myriad ways slave religion thus created a vital psychic buffer, enabling black Carolinians to survive slavery’s potentially devastating impact.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar receivedhisA.B.degreefromDavidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.