The Importance of Religion to American Slaves
Whether one notices or not, each person has the right to make choices concerning
his or her life. Being able to make these decisions is a God-given right that
vibrates in the heart of every human being who claims possession and mastery
over his or her own self. However, for slaves, this concept did not exist, and
they became the property of someone else with no place to call their own. For
this reason, many slaves turned to religion to comfort them in their darkest
hour, to help them gain the strength to continue in their struggles, and to hope
that a day would come when they would rise above their condition to a better
place. For slave-owners, the Bible became a place where the institution of
slavery was justified, but for the slaves, Christianity became a symbol of
redemption in which they envisioned a future free from bondage, and if earthly
escape was not possible, their faith would be rewarded in the afterlife,
securing them a home of their own in a free heaven.
While many white slave owners discouraged slaves from learning the Bible for
fear it would encourage slaves to seek freedom, slaves, nevertheless, felt the
Bible was their source for obtaining earthly freedom; thus "their persistent
hope for the future was tied to their faith in God." (Stammering Tongue, 57).
Their convictions gave them the ounce of hope they needed to believe that there
was a better life awaiting them. "The Spirit of the Lord allowed black slaves to
transcend the horizon of their immediate experiences and to hope for a future in
which they would be free." (Stammering Tongue, 60). In Frederick Douglass’
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...ome of his own in a free heaven.
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