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The Religion of the American Negro Slave: His Attitude Toward Life and Death:
Electronic Edition.

Wilson, G. R. (Gold Refined)


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(caption title) The Religion of the American Negro Slave: His Attitude Toward Life and Death
G. R. Wilson
41-71p.
Lancaster, Pa; Washington, D. C.
The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Inc.
1923
From The Journal of Negro History 8, no.1 (January 1923), 41-71.

Call number E185 .J86 v. 8 1923 (Davis Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)


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Page 41

THE RELIGION OF THE AMERICAN NEGRO SLAVE: HIS ATTITUDE TOWARD LIFE AND DEATH

        I propose to discuss the religious behavior of the American Negro slave, between 1619 and the close of the Civil War, first, by a brief discussion of the religion of the tribes in Africa, and the tendency of the old habits and traditions to maintain themselves among the American slave; second, by a consideration of what the slave found in America, and his contact with another religious culture called Christianity; and third, by a description of the slave's reaction to a Christian environment, or what the slave's religious behavior really was. 1

        1 This dissertation was submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Literature of the University of Chicago in candidacy for the degree of Bachelor of Divinity, March, 1921, by Gold Refined Wilson.


My thesis is that the religion of Africa disappeared from the consciousness of the American slave; that the slave himself, by contact with a new environment, became a decidedly different person, having a new religion, a primitive Christianity, with the central emphasis, not upon this world, but upon heaven. 2

        2 Working toward this end, I have examined a vast amount of material on slavery, much of which is controversial, having been written by men who favored slaves, or by abolitionists and slaves who were able to see only one side of the question discussed. Such literature, being biased, so distorts the truth that it is extremely difficult to discover what is social fact. As sources, however, I have used books and magazine-articles, written from a more scientific point of view. There are a few representative ones. Kingsley's West African Studies, which, although expressing the attitude of the author, gives us a comprehensive picture of what the life in Africa is. Washington, in the Story of the Negro, in a simple, sincere manner, sets forth the struggles of the Negro in his contact with a higher civilization. Woodson's Education of the Negro prior to 1861 shows to what extent effort was made by the whites to bring the slaves into contact with the white civilization. The Religious Development of the Negro in Virginia, by Earnest, shows how the church of the Negro slave, beginning in the church of the whites, grew to be an independent organization. Fragmentary evidence in the histories of the religious denominations shows the same progressive development. A few of the stories of fugitive slaves, though written for other purposes, still speak very clearly of how dependent the slave was upon his cultural surroundings for his religious ideas. The stories of the lives of Nat Turner, the Virginia slave insurrectionist, and of Harriet, the Moses of Her People, are filled with apocalyptic imagery. Concerning the phenomena of cultural contacts, the most scholarly piece of work yet produced is that by Prof. Park, which shows the tendency of one civilization to accommodate itself to another, by assimilation of concepts, expressed in language and custom. For a study of the religion of the slave, however, the best of all the sources is that spontaneous, naive body of literature consisting of the slave-songs, sometimes called "spirituals," which were sung by individuals upon various occasions, and by shouting groups of religious enthusiasts. Krehbiel, who set many of these primitive verses to printed scales, made of them a psychological interpretation that has given the slave-mood. Colonel T. W. Higginson, the commander of a "black regiment" in South Carolina, during the Civil War, an eyewitness of many of the slave religious meetings, gives the circumstances under which a number of the "spirituals" arose. But Odum, in Volume III of the Journal of Religious Psychology and Education, makes of all the classes of slave-songs a psychological interpretation that is unsurpassed. The value of these collections is the common longing found therein, a burning enthusiasm to live in heaven.



Page 42

        My task is to show that the religion of the Negro slave between 1619 and the Civil War did not originate in Africa, but was something totally different from the prevailing religion of the black continent in that it placed emphasis upon heaven; and that this distinctive element in the religion of the slave grew out of his contact with Christianity in America. In taking this position I have tried to give due weight to those considerations which tend to support a contrary position, such as the inertia of African habits and traditions in the life of the American slave, and the hostile tendency of his social surroundings to religious development. 3

        3 In the preparation of this dissertation the following works were used: R. H. Nassau, Fetichism in West Africa, 1904; Mary H. Kingsley, West African Studies (London, 1901); J. B. Earnest, The Religious Development of the Negro in Virginia (Charlottesville, Va., 1914); H. M. Henry, Slavery in South Carolina (Emory, Va., 1914); Ivan E. McDougle, Slavery in Kentucky, 1792-1865 (Reprinted from THE JOURNAL OF NEGRO HISTORY, Vol. III, No. 3, July, 1918); H. A. Trexler, Slavery in Missouri, 1804-1865, Being a Dissertation in Johns Hopkins University Studies (Baltimore, 1914); J. C. Ballagh, Slavery in Virginia, Johns Hopkins University Studies, vol. XXIX, 1902 (Baltimore); J. H. Russell, Free Negro in Virginia, 1619-1865, Johns Hopkins University Studies, Series 31, No. 3 (Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1913); J. R. Brackett, Negro in Maryland (Baltimore, 1889); G. H. Moore, Slavery in Massachusetts (New York, 1866); R. Q. Mallard, Plantation Life before Emancipation (Richmond, Virginia, 1892); Frances Anne Kemble, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-9 (New York, 1863); C. G. Woodson, The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (New York, 1915); The Journal of Negro History, edited by C. G. Woodson, vols. I-IV, 1916-1919 (The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, Inc., Washington, D. C.); Alcee Fortier,History of Louisiana, 4 vols. (New York, 1904); Code Noir, I (Published 1724); M. W. Jernegan, Slavery and Conversion in the American Colonies (Reprinted from The American Historical Review, vol. XXI, No. 3, April, 1916); G. M. West, Status of the Negro in Virginia during the Colonial Period (New York); L. A. Chamerorzow, Slave Life in Georgia; Narrative of John Brown (London, 1865); B. T. Washington, Story of the Negro, 2 vols. (New York, 1909); Baptist Annual Register; A. N. Waterman, A Century of Caste (Chicago, 1901); Geo. Thompson, Prison Life and Reflections, 3d Edition (Hartford, 1849); Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Boston, 1861); Sarah H. Bradford, Harriet, The Moses of Her People (New York, 1861); Thos. W. Higginson, Life of a Black Regiment (Boston, 1870); Jas. B. Avirett, The Old Plantation, Great House and Cabin before the War, 1817-65 (New York, Chicago, London, 1901); Jno. S. Abbott, South and North (New York, 1860). Lucius P. Little, Ben Harding, His Times and Contemporaries (Louisville, 1867); De Bow's Commercial Review (New Orleans, 1847); Life of Josiah Henson (Boston, 1849); Baptist Home Missions in America (New York, 1883); Presbyterian Magazine, I (Philadelphia, 1851); Methodist Magazine, X (New York, 1827); W. L. Grissom, History of Methodism in North Carolina, 1772-1805, vol. I; Sermons by John Wesley, 3d Edition, vols. I-Il (New York); B. F. Riley, History of Baptists in Southern States East of Mississippi (Philadelphia, 1888); John Rankin, 1793-1886, Letters on Slavery (Boston, 1833); W. G. Hawkins, Lunsford Lane (Boston, 1863); Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and Freedom (New York, 1857); K. E. R. Pickard, The Kidnapped and the Ransomed, Recollections of Peter Still and His Wife Vina, 3d Ed. (Syracuse, 1865); Fifty Years in Chains, Life of an American Slave (New York); H. E. Krehbiel, Afro-American Folk-Songs, R. E. Park, Education, Conflicts, and Fusions, American Sociological Society, vol. XIII (Sept. 3, 1918); Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. XIV (1901), pp. 1-11, vol. XXVII (1914), pp. 241-5, vol. XXIII, p. 435, vol. XXIV, p. 255; Songs by Thos. P. Fennes; W. F. Allen, Slave Songs of the United States (New York, 1867); Twenty-two Years Work of Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (Hampton, 1893); T. P. Fenner, Hampton and its Students by Two of its Teachers, with 50 Cabin and Plantation Songs (New York, 1875); American Journal of Religious Psychology and Education, vol. III, pp. 265-365; Negro Year-Book; E. W. Pearson, Letters from Port Royal (1916); C. H. Jones, Instruction of Negro Slave (1842).


On the other hand, I have considered the disintegrating
Page 43

effects of the American slave system upon black groups that originated in Africa, together with the American slave's new social contacts, which produced in him the religious attitude found, and out of which arose the early slave-preacher and church. Finally, I have attempted to show that the naive imagery and emphasis in the "spirituals" are selected elements that helped the slave adjust himself to his particular world.

        Our beginning is with the prevailing religion of Africa, Fetishism. Authorities use the term "Fetishism" as the "(a) worship of inanimate objects, often regarded as purely African; (b) Negro religion in general; (c) the worship of inanimate objects conceived as the residence of spirits not inseparably bound up with, nor originally connected with, such objects; (d) the doctrine of spirits embodied in, or attached to, or conceiving influence through certain material objects; 4

        4 Tylor's Anthropology.


(e) the use of charms, which are not worshipped,
Page 44

but derive their magical power from a god or spirit; (f) the use as charms of objects regarded as magically potent in themselves."

        All of the elements embodied in this definition are found, generally, in the primitive religions of the African peoples. Believing that persons and objects of this world were inhabited by spirits, the African necessarily accounted for the phenomena of the universe by the arbitrary will of spiritual beings, whom he feared, and, therefore, worshipped, or sought to control by magic. Unable thus to find companionship with these unseen, mysterious personalities, the men of Africa knew no land of sunshine beyond the dreadful shadow of the grave; but the American slave, who experienced death as a short period of darkness before a day of eternal glory, did not inherit the fears of Africa.

        Now what did the slave bring from Africa? In answering this question let us consider what is commonly referred to as the inertia of African heritage. American missionaries reported that it was harder to teach the slaves who were born in Africa than those born in this country. This quotation from the Calendar of State Papers, Colonial America and West Indies, 1699, Section 473, supports this view: "Negroes born in this country were generally baptized, but for Negroes imported, the gross barbarity and rudeness of their manners, the variety and strangeness of their language, and the weakness and shallowness of their minds rendered it in a manner impossible to attain to any progress in their conversion." 5

        5 Earnest, p. 28.


        Two definite cases bear a similar testimony, the one being that of Phyllis Wheatley, a girl brought here from Africa, who spoke of how her mother there worshipped the rising sun, the other, this story related by a man concerning his grandfather: "He was an old man, nearly 80 years old," he said, "and he manifested all the fondness for me that I could expect from one so old. . . . He always expressed contempt for his fellow slaves, for when young he was an African of rank. . . . He had singular religious notions,


Page 45

never going to meeting, or caring for the preachers he could, if he would, occasionally hear. He retained his native traditions respecting the deity and hereafter." 6

        6 Fifty Years in Chains, p. 14.


        Other cases, though few, clearly demonstrate that among the American slaves also there existed a belief in ghosts and a lurking fear of the denizens of a mysterious world. But what was religion in Africa was generally regarded by the American slaves themselves as mere superstition.

        The hostility of masters to new slave-contacts had some bearing on the situation. Whatever superstition, whether from Africa or another source, we find among the slaves, had a tendency to maintain itself the more because of the attitude of some masters toward the religious education of their bondmen. Slaves of those owners, who, through love of money, were indifferent toward education, encouraged in vice and superstition, had no time for religious training. Although, ever since 1619, and especially after the rebellion of Nat Turner, there were some slaves whose eagerness to learn occasioned State-laws against the education or assembling of slaves, nevertheless, during the entire period there was a countless number of slaves who were absolutely disinterested in their own education. They were also handicapped in religious advancement, because many owners believed that baptism made the slave free, which belief was prevalently held until 1729, when the Christian nations finally reached the decision that baptism did not mean manumission, and that even a Christian could be a slave. 7

        7 Jernegan, pp. 506-7.


Such a sentiment against the contact of slaves with the Christian religion, beyond doubt, tended to keep them in ignorance and superstition, and to develop among them religious habits and attitudes peculiar to an isolated group, but the point can be over-emphasized, in view of all that actually happened.

        Dr. Park says: "Coming from all parts of Africa and having no common language, and common tradition, the memories of Africa which they brought with them were


Page 46

soon lost. . . . The fact that the Negro brought with him from Africa so little tradition which he was able to transmit and perpetuate on American soil makes that race unique among all peoples of our cosmopolitan population." 8

        8 Education, Conflicts, and Fusion, p. 47.


In connection herewith, moreover, we must also take into account that slave-groups, upon reaching America, were broken up and the members thereof sold into different parts of the country, where new habits had to be formed, because of a different environment. Contrasting the life in Africa with that of slaves in America, Washington better expresses the idea in these words: "The porters, carrying their loads along the narrow forest paths, sing of the loved ones in their far-away homes. In the evening the people of the villages gather around the fire and sing for hours. These songs refer to war, to hunting, and to the spirits that dwell in the deep woods. In them all the wild and primitive life of the people is reflected. . . .

        "There is a difference, however, between the music of Africa and that of her transplanted children. There is a new note in the music which had its origin in the Southern plantations, and in this new note the sorrow and the sufferings which came from serving in a strange land find expression." 9

        9 Washington, Story of the Negro, pp. 260-261.



        Let us direct attention to what the Negro slave found in America, a Christian atmosphere. With their various groups broken into fragments and scattered by the American slave-trade, as the slaves here learned the English language, they were more able to assimilate the elements of Christianity found in American life. Sold into Christian homes, but gathered with their masters around the family altar, they became actual participants in the singing and praying that broke the morning and evening silence of those eventful days. The old records show that from the very beginning of American slavery 10

        10 Earnest, p. 19.


slaves experienced Christianity through the conscious help of some masters, and later,
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as the whites saw that the Christian religion made the Negroes better slaves and did not set them free, the blacks secured more favorable opportunities for religious instruction. In some States masters were required even by legislation to look after the religious education of their slaves. 11

        11 Woodson, Education of Negro Prior to 1861, p. 23.


In Louisiana, for example, planters were obliged by the Code Noir to have their Negroes instructed and baptized, to give them Sundays and holidays for rest and worship. But, even when not required by law, a few owners established schools for their slaves, and either taught or hired others to teach them "the way of eternal life."

        So it is reported that by the 19th century: " Few Negroes escaped some religious instruction from those good people. Usually on Sunday afternoons, but sometimes in the morning, the slaves would be gathered in the great house and lessons in the catechism had to be learned. The Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments were also taught. Hymns were sung and prayers rose to Heaven. Many good masters read sermons to their slaves. Other masters hired ministers. . . . Others preached themselves." 12

        12 Earnest, p. 60.


        Another source of contact with Christianity was that resulting from the attitude of persons who worked, not for the religious development of their own slaves alone, but who, with a larger human interest, unmindful of the benefits that might come to their individual households, gave their lives to bless all slaves. One of the very purposes of American slavery being to benefit the slaves, one can readily see how missionary work among them grew with the system of slavery itself.

        "After 1716," Woodson tells us, "when Jesuits were taking over slaves in large numbers, and especially after 1726, when Law's Company was importing many to meet the demand for laborers in Louisiana, we read of more, instances of the instruction of Negroes by the Catholics.

        13 Woodson, Education of Negro Prior to 1861, p. 21.



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. . . Le Petit spoke of being 'settled to the instruction of the boarders, the girls who live without, and the Negro women.' In 1738 he said, 'I instruct in Christian morals the slaves of our residence, who are Negroes, and as many others as I can get from their masters.' "

        Awakened by what the zealous French in Louisiana were doing, English missionaries made progressive plans for preaching the gospel to the blacks. During the 18th century numerous missionaries, catechists, and school-masters, sent from England to America, founded schools for the slaves, and distributed many sermons, lectures, and Bibles among them. In 1705 Thomas counted among his communicants in South Carolina twenty Negroes who could read and write. Later, making a report of the work he and his associates were doing, he said: "I have here presumed to give an account of 1,000 slaves so far as they know of it and are desirous of Christian knowledge and seem willing to prepare themselves for it, in learning to read, for which they redeem the time from their labor. Many of them can read the Bible distinctly, and great numbers of them were learning when I left the province." 14

        14 Woodson, Education of Negro Prior to 1861, p. 26.


        "After some opposition," Woodson further says, "this work began to progress somewhat in Virginia. The first school established in that colony was for Indians and Negroes. . . . On the binding out a 'bastard or pauper-child black or white,' churchwardens specifically required that he should be taught 'to read and write and calculate as well as to follow some profitable form of labor.' . . . Reports of an increase in the number of colored communicants came from Accomac County where four or five hundred families were instructing their slaves at home and had their children catechised on Sunday." 15

        15 Ibid., p. 29.


        Side by side with the work done by missionaries, men of different denominations vied with one another in bringing slaves into the light of a Christian atmosphere. Some founded Sunday schools, some preached of the "inner light


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in every man," others more successfully preached salvation by faith in the power of a risen Christ, who died for the sins of men. Soon after the first Negroes were placed upon the shores of Jamestown, slaves began to be baptized, and received into the Episcopal Church. Earnest says that "at least one Negro was baptized soon after the contact with the colonists in Virginia." 16

        16 Earnest, Religious Development, p. 17.


Washington says that only five years after slavery was introduced into Virginia a Negro child named William was baptized, and that from that time on the names of Negroes can be found upon the register of most of the churches. In the old record-book of Bruton Parish, 1,122 17

        17 Ibid., p. 45.


Negro-baptisms were recorded between 1746 and 1797. 18

        18 Ibid., p. 66.


In 1809 there were about 9,000 Negro Baptists in Virginia. 19

        19 Ballagh, p. 114.


The African Baptist Church of Richmond alone subsequently increased from 1,000 to 3,832 in 24 years. The Methodist Magazine of October, 1827, reports that as early as 1817 there were 43,411 Negro members in the Methodist societies. 20

        20 In 1841, there were 500,000 slaves who were church members, or 1/5 of total number of slaves. 2,000,000 were regular attendants. J. C. Ballagh, p. 114.


        "The Negro seems, from the beginning," says Washington, "to have been very closely associated with the Methodists in the United States. When the Reverend Thomas Coke was ordained by John Wesley, as Superintendent or Bishop of the American Society in 1784, he was accompanied on most of his travels throughout the United States by Harry Hosier, a colored minister who was at the same time the Bishop's servant and an evangelist of the Church. Harry Hosier, who was the first American Negro preacher of the Methodist Church in the United States, was one of the notable characters of his day." 21

        21 Story of the Negro, p. 257.


        Let us now consider the effects of these early religious contacts upon the life of slave-preachers, some of whom


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were comparatively well educated. Concerning Jack of Virginia it is said that "his opinions were respected, his advice followed, and yet he never betrayed the least symptoms of arrogance or self-conceit. His dwelling was a rude log-cabin, his apparel was of the plainest, coarsest materials. . . . He refused gifts of better clothing, saying, 'These clothes are a great deal better than are generally worn by people of my color, and, besides, if I wear them I find I shall be obliged to think about them even at meetings.' " 22

        22 Story of the Negro, p. 268; Quoted from Ballagh.


        With an influence among the slaves equal to Jack's, two other Negro messengers of the gospel, Andrew Bryan and Samson, his brother, who earlier had appeared in Georgia, were publicly whipped and imprisoned with 50 companions, but they joyously declared that they would suffer death for their faith found in Christ, whom they expected to preach until death. 23

        23 Washington, Story of Negro, p. 266.


By their uncompromising attitude, 24

         24 Quite different from the early experiences of Bryan and Samson, who made adversity serve them, the beginning of Jasper's Christian career was greatly aided by his master, a man with a similar conversion and a similar faith in Christ. Using the Bible as the norma of all truth, in his attack upon current scientific knowledge, Jasper impressed all men by his sincere conviction and devout Christian life. A contemporary said of him: "Jasper made an impression upon his generation, because he was sincerely and deeply in earnest in all that he said. No man could talk with him in private, or listen to him from the pulpit, without being thoroughly convinced of that fact. . . . He took the Bible in its literal significance; he accepted it as the inspired Word of God; he trusted it with all his heart and soul and mind; he believed nothing that was in conflict with the teachings of the Bible." - See Washington's Story of the Negro, p. 264.


which silenced opponents and raised up friends, they won for themselves among the slaves that sacred esteem belonging to saintly martyrs like Polycarp, Huss, and Fox.

        There were other itinerant ministers in these days, who were either given their freedom or purchased it by working as common laborers while preaching. Being better educated, and more closely in contact with the religious life of the whites than the masses of slaves, they were carriers of Christian sentiment from the whites to the blacks, inspiring


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them with the hope of life in an unseen world. One day there arrived in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Henry Evans, a Methodist preacher, a free Negro from Virginia, who worked as a carpenter during the week and preached on Sunday. Forbidden by the Town Council of Fayetteville to preach, he made his meetings secret, changing them from time to time until he was tolerated. Just before his death, while leaning on the altar-rail, he said to his followers:

        "I have come to say my last word to you. It is this: None but Christ. Three times I have had my life in jeopardy for preaching the gospel to you. Three times I have broken the ice on the edge of the water and swam across the Cape Fear to preach the gospel to you, and if in my last hour I could trust to that or anything but Christ crucified, for my salvation, all should be lost, and my soul perish forever." 25

        25 Washington, Story of the Negro, pp. 260-1.



        Some of these ministers led an independent movement. Six years after Richard Allen, with a few followers, withdrew in 1790 from the Free African Society in Philadelphia, 26

        26 Ibid., pp. 254-5.


and started an independent Methodist Church in a blacksmith shop, Negro members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in New York began separate meetings. After pastoring a white church, 27

        27 Ibid., pp. 255-6.


Josiah Bishop started the First Colored Baptist Church of Portsmouth in 1791. Finding accommodations in the white church of Richmond inadequate, the Negroes petitioned for separate meetings in 1823. 28

        28 Earnest, p. 72.


Harding, speaking of the opportunity of religious instruction and of divine worship allowed the slaves in Kentucky, says that "in every church-edifice, seats were set apart for the occupancy of colored worshippers. . . . Almost every neighborhood had its Negro preacher whose credentials, if his own assertion was to be taken, came directly from the Lord." 29

        29 Ben Harding, His Times and Contemporaries, p. 544.



        30 Earnest, p. 73.



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        What were the results of these contacts? The most important was that with its charming stories of the creation of the universe, of the Egyptian bondage, and of the journey across the Red Sea, with its New Testament emphasis upon the power, death, and resurrection of Christ, with its apocalyptic imagery, the Bible became to the slave the most sacred book of books. Upon its pages he saw the tears of men and women constantly fall, and from its truths he saw the pious preacher choose words suitable for exhortation. The peculiar interest of the Negro-slave in reading this book was soon apparent.

        One old man, being secretly taught by a slave-girl to read the Bible, said, with trembling voice, while tears were falling from his penetrating eyes: "Honey, it 'pears when I can read dis good book I shall be nearer to God." 31

        31 Jacobs, Life of a Slave-Girl, p. 112.


Another slave prayed thus: "I pray de good massa Lord will put it into de niggers' hearts to larn to read de good book. Ah, Lord, make de letters in our spelling books big and plain, and make our eyes bright and shining, and make our hearts big and strong for to larn. . . . Oh, Hebbenly Fader, we tank De for makin' our massas willin' to let us come to dis school." 32

        32 Coffin, p. 60.


        Upon a battlefield of the Civil War, another, a soldier, said: "Let me lib wid dis musket in one hand an' de Bible in de oder,--dat if I die at de muzzle ob de musket, die in de water, die on de land, I may know I hab de bressed Jesus in my hand an' I hab no fear." 33

        33 Higginson, p. 26.


        How the text from Hebrews 2:9, "That He, by the grace of God, should taste of death for every man," became a part of his life, was told by Josiah Henson after becoming free: "This was the first text of the Bible to which I had ever listened, knowing it to be such. I have never forgotten it, and scarce a day has passed since, in which I have not recalled it, and the sermon that was preached from it. The divine character of Jesus Christ, his life and teachings,


Page 53

his sacrifice of himself for others, his death and resurrection were all alluded to, and some of the points were dwelt upon with great power. . . . I was wonderfully impressed, too, with the use which the preacher made of the last words of the text, 'for every man' . . . the bond as well as the free; and he dwelt on the glad tidings of the Gospel to the poor, the persecuted . . . till my heart burned within me, and I was in a state of greatest excitement . . . that such a being . . . should have died for me . . . a poor slave . . . ." 34

        34 Henson, Life of Josiah Henson, p. 12.


        Contemporaries assert that often while following the plow, gathering up the frosty corn, or driving the ox-cart to the barn, slaves, burning with enthusiasm, talked of how much sermons satisfied their hungry souls. Household and plantation slaves, gray-haired fathers and mothers with their children, crowded eagerly to hear the gospel preached. Thus Earnest says of one man: "His slaves came 17 miles to reach Mr. Wright's nearest preaching place." 35

        35 Earnest, p. 42.


Concerning the spread of the Christian religion among the slaves on the seaboard of South Carolina, it is affirmed that "the scenes on the Sabbath were affecting. The Negroes came in crowds from two parishes. Often have I seen (a scene, I reckon, not often witnessed) groups of them 'double-quicking' in the roads, in order to reach the church in time. . . . The white service being over, the slaves would throng the seats vacated by their masters. . . ." 36

        36 Plantation Life before Emancipation, p. 164.


John Thompson, in the story of his life, says that, "As soon as it got among the slaves, it spread from plantation to plantation, until it reached ours, where there were but few who did not experience religion." 37

        37 Life of John Thompson, p. 19. See Methodists in N. C., p. 238.


        From the blighting, superstitious fears of a heartless universe, the heralds of Christianity brought to the slave words of hope and salvation, a message of companionship with a heavenly father. "You are poor slaves and have a


Page 54

hard time of it here," said they, "but I can tell you the blessed Savior shed his blood for you as much as for your masters. . . . Break off from all your wicked ways, your lying, stealing, swearing, drunkenness, and vile lewdness; give yourselves to prayer and repentance and fly to Jesus, and give up your heart to him in true earnest; and flee from the wrath to come." 38

        38 Earnest, Religious Development, p. 54.


        Fred Douglass relates that "the preaching of a white Methodist minister, named Hanson, was the means of causing me to feel that in God I had such a friend. He thought that all men, great and small, bond and free, were sinners in the sight of God: that they were by nature rebels against his government; and that they must repent of their sins, and be reconciled to God through Christ. . . . I was wretched." 39

        39 Life of Douglass, p. 82.


        Besides definite principles of morality which included humble submission to the divine right of masters, Negro slaves were also taught that "parents who meet their children in heaven will be more than consoled for their early death." "You can not imagine, " said they, "what happiness is in reserve for you from this source. . . . When you have entered heaven you will probably be met by a youthful spirit who will call you father! mother! Perhaps you have a little family there, expecting your arrival . . . save your own soul." 40

        40 Presbyterian Magazine: 1831, p. 27; See vol. 6, pp. 8-9; Woodson, Education of Negro Prior to 1861, p. 49; Sermons of Wesley and Whitefield.


        Exactly what was this religion of the slave? Thus coming into contact with this Christian environment, the slave consciously lived a new life, which definitely began with conversion, the phenomenon marked by a feeling of remorse, inner conflict, prayer, and release of tension, or what was felt to be "freedom from hell." Prior to conversion he had been a member of the "disobedient servant group," perhaps lying, stealing, drinking, and using profanity; but after conversion, being initiated into a new


Page 55

group, he had to live a circumspect life. Conversion, then, meant to the slave that experience by which he turned his back toward hell and began the journey toward heaven. Very often it signified retiring to some lonely spot, where the slave struggled with an unseen power, until freed by Christ, with whom, no longer a child of fear, he afterwards lived in filial companionship, hopefully asking and joyfully securing aid in an unfriendly world.

        "I always had a natural fear of God from my youth," declared one slave, describing his feelings leading up to conversion, "and was often checked in conscience with thoughts of death, which barred me from my sins and bad company. I knew no other way at that time to hope for salvation but only in the performance of my good works. . . . If it was the will of God to cut me off at that time, I was sure I should be found in hell, as sure as God was in heaven. I saw my condemnation in my own heart, and I found no way which I could escape the damnation of hell, only through the merits of my dying Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; which caused me to make intercession with Christ, for the salvation of my poor immortal soul. . . . After this I declared before the congregation of believers the work which God had done for my soul." 41

        41 Journal of Negro History, vol. I, p. 70.


        The slaves used to express it thus in song: 42

        42 Twenty-two Years Work at Hampton.



                         "One day when I was walkin' along,
                         De element opened, an' do love came down,
                         I never shall forget dat day,
                         When Jesus washed my sins away."

        They also sang such words as these: 43

        43 Journal of Religious Psychology and Education, vol. 3, pp. 290-1.



                         "Jesus snatched me from de doors of hell,
                         An' took me in with him to dwell."
                         "Jesus told you . . . go in peace an' sin no mo'."
                         "Soul done anchored in Jesus Christ."

        With reference to the wilderness, where, without food, they overcame the spirit of evil by the aid of Jesus, and


Page 56

with reference to the life led after having this experience, the slaves sang with much feeling: 44

        44 Higginson, Life of a Black Regiment, p. 133.



                         "All true children gwine in do wilderness,
                         Gwine in de wilderness, gwine in de wilderness,
                         True believers gwine in de wilderness,
                         To take away de sins ob de world. "


                         "Stay in the field, stay in the field, stay in
                         the field, till de war is ended." 45

        45, Twenty-two Years at Hampton.





                         "You say your Jesus set-a you free;
                         View de land, view de land,
                         Why don't you let-a your neighbor be,
                         Go view de heavenly land.
                         You say you're aiming for de skies,
                         Why don't you stop-a your telling lies?" 46

        46 Hampton and its Students, p. 182.



        Another ceremonial feature of slave-conversion was the shout, in which the prospective convert, upon the "mourners' bench," surrounded by a group of singing dancers, prayed continually, until convinced of perfect relief from damnation, when he leaped and ran to proclaim the joyous news. When shouting, whether for making converts or for mere group-response, these noisy, black singers of antiphonal songs preferred to be alone in some cabin or in the praise-house, where they could express themselves with absolute freedom.

        Just how they disturbed the peace is expressed in the following words: "Almost every night there is a meeting of these noisy, frantic worshippers. . . . Midnight! Is that the season for religious convocation? . . . is that the accepted time?" 47

         47 Henry, p. 141.


Concerning worship by a light-wood fire another said: "But the benches are pushed back to the wall when the formal meeting is over, and old and young, men and women . . . begin, first walking and by and by shuffling around, one after the other, in a ring. The foot is hardly taken from the floor and the progression is mainly due to a jerking, hitching motion
Page 57

which agitates the entire shouter and soon brings out streams of perspiration. Sometimes they dance silently; sometimes as they shuffle they sing the course of the spiritual, and sometimes the song itself is also sung by the dancers. But more frequently a band, composed of some of the best singers and of tired shouters, stand at the side of the room to 'face' the others singing the body of the song and dropping their hands together or on their knees. Song and dance are alike extremely energetic and often, when the shout lasts into the middle of the night, the monotonous thud, thud of the feet prevents sleep within half a mile of the praise-house." 48

        48 Life of Black Regiment, by Higginson, pp. 51-2.


        "And all night, as I waked at intervals, I could hear them praying and 'shouting' and chattering with hands and heels," relates Colonel T. W. Higginson. "It seemed to make them very happy, and appeared to be at least an innocent Christian dissipation . . . the dusky figures moved in the rythmical barbaric dance the Negroes called a 'shout,' chanting, often harshly, but always in the most perfect time, some monotonous refrain." 49

        49 Ibid., pp. 35, 198.


        "By this time every man within hearing, from oldest to youngest, would be wriggling and shuffling, as if through some piper's bewitchment; for even those who at first affected contemptuous indifference would be drawn into the vortex ere long." 50

        50 My position is that the shout was a natural and spontaneous creation of group-phenomena. It differed from the whites' behavior in ceremonial emphasis. Neither the shout nor the antiphonal song was brought from Africa. The real religious significance of both, however, is not in external behavior, but in content.


        Whatever may be said about the "shout," the fact remains, that whether this ceremony was mere play, or relaxation after a day of repressing toil, or whether it served to drive away a hostile spirit by creating within the members of the group the feeling of being possessed with the power of God, it became an indispensable part of the slave religious worship. In this Christian dance, the slave sang:


Page 58


                         "O shout, shout, de debbil is about, O shut yo' do' an' keep him out."
Through it he expected to destroy the kingdom of Satan, and thereby make the assurance of reaching heaven more complete. The feeling gained thereby became spiritual balm for the aches of by-gone and coming days. 51

        51 Am. J. Rel. Psy. and Ed., 3: 287.


        The songs, also, used by the slave in these meetings and sung generally by the individuals thereof, tell in a very definite way what the religious attitude of the American Negro slave was. They relate the sorrows of this world, and the joys felt by the slave, who anticipated a home in heaven. They describe in naive imagery the rugged journey of the weary traveler and the land of his happy destination. "Nothing," says Washington, "tells more truly what the Negro's life in slavery was, than the songs in which he succeeded, sometimes, in expressing his deepest thoughts and feelings. What, for example, could express more eloquently the feelings of despair which sometimes overtook the slave than these simple and expressive words: 52

        52 Story of the Negro, p. 260.



                         " 'O Lord, O my Lord! O my good Lord! keep me from sinking down.' "

        Unable to sing or pray during the lifetime of their master, after his death, by permission of their mistress, a crowd of Negro slaves sang the following hymn:


                         "Oh walk togedder, children,
                         Don't yer get weary,
                         Walk togedder, children,
                         Don't yer get weary,
                         Walk togedder, children,
                         Don't yer get weary,
                         Dere's a great camp meetin' in de Promised Land.
                         Gwine to mourn an' nebber tire . . .
                         Mourn an' nebber tire,
                         Mourn an' nebber tire,
                         Dere's a great camp meetin' in de Promised Land."53

        53 Fenner, Hampton and its Students, p. 223.


        With longing for that mother who used to carry him upon her back to the dewy fields, where she, setting her babe upon the springing grass at the end of the row, began


Page 59

her daily task with the hoe, returning now and then to give him of her breast; for her whose beaming eyes turned back until the coming of the night, when she again held him in her arms, the slave sang in bitter tears. Her tender help was gone. Father's smile was no more. 54

        54 Am. J. Rel. Psy. and Ed., 3: 303.



                         "My mother's sick an' my father's dead,
                         Got nowhere to lay my weary head."


                         "My mother an' my father both are dead . . .
                         Good Lord, I cannot stay here by myself.
                         I'm er pore little orphan chile in de worl',
                         I'm er pore little orphan chile in de worl' . . . " 55

        55 Ibid., 340.



                         "My mother'n yo' mother both daid an' gone,
                         "My mother'n yo' mother both daid an' gone,
                         Po' sinner man he so hard to believe.
                         My folks an' yo' folks both daid an' gone,
                         Po' sinner man he so hard to believe.
                         My brother an' yo' brother both daid an' gone,
                         Po' sinner man he so hard to believe." 56

        56 Ibid., 3: 321.


        With great hope the slave sang:


                         "Gwine to see my mother some o' dese mornin's,
                         See my mother some o' dese mornin's,
                         See my mother some o' dese mornin's,
                         Look away in de heaven,
                         Look away in de heaven, Lord,
                         Hope I'll jine de band.
                         Look away in de heaven, Lord,
                         Hope I'll jine de band." 57

        57 Fenner, Hampton and its Students, p. 190.



        To express his sorrow and his longing for relief from the burdens of his condition the slave sang:


                         "One more valient soldier here,
                         One more valient soldier here,
                         One more valient soldier here,
                         To help me bear de cross." 58

        58 Higginson, Black Regiment of South Carolina, 200-1.



Page 60


                         "My trouble is hard,
                         O yes,
                         My trouble is hard,
                         O yes,
                         Yes indeed my trouble is hard." 59

        59 Am. J. Rel. Psy. and Ed., 3: 351.



                         "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen,
                         Nobody knows but Jesus.
                         Nobody knows the trouble I've seen,
                         Glory halleluyah!
                         Sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down!
                         O yes, Lord!
                         Sometimes I'm almost to de groun'!
                         O yes, Lord!
                         What makes old Satan hate me so?
                         O yes, Lord,
                         Because he got me once, but he let me go;
                         O yes, Lord!" 60

        60 Krehbiel, p. 75.



                         "Ever since my Lord done set me free,
                         Dis ole worl' been a hell to me,
                         I am de light un de worl'." 61

        61 Am. J. Relig. Psy. and Ed., 3: 304.



                         "Oh, what a hard time,
                         Oh, what a hard time,
                         Oh, what a hard time,
                         All God's children have a hard time.


                         "Oh, what a hard time,
                         Oh, what a hard time,
                         Oh, what a hard time,
                         My Lord had a hard time too." 62

        62 Ibid., 320.



                         "I'm a-trouble in de mind,
                         O I'm a-trouble in de mind.
                         I'm a-trouble in de mind,
                         What you doubt for?
                         I'm a-trouble in de mind." 63

        63 Allen, 30-1.



                         "I'm in trouble, Lord,
                         I'm in trouble.
                         I'm in trouble, Lord,
                         Trouble about my grave,
                         Trouble about my grave,
                         Trouble about my grave.


Page 61


                         Sometimes I weep, sometimes I mourn,
                         I'm in trouble about my grave;
                         Sometimes I can't do neither one,
                         I'm in trouble about my grave." 64

        64 Allen, Slave Songs, 113, p. 94.



                         "My father, how long,
                         My father, how long,
                         My father, how long,
                         Poor sinner suffer here?
                         And it won't be long,
                         And it won't be long,
                         And it won't be long,
                         Poor sinner suffer here.
                         We'll soon be free,
                         De Lord will call us home.
                         We'll walk de miry road
                         Where pleasure never dies.
                         We'll walk de golden streets
                         Of de new Jerusalem . . .
                         We'll fight for liberty
                         When de Lord will call us home." 65

        65 Ibid., 112, p. 93.



                         "Gwine rock trubbel over,
                         I b'lieve,
                         Rock trubbel over,
                         I b'lieve,
                         Dat Sabbath has no end." 66

        66 Am. J. Relig. Psy. and Ed., 3: 304.



                         "My fader's done wid de trouble o' de world,
                         Wid de trouble o' de world,
                         Wid de trouble o' de world,
                         My fader's done wid de trouble o' de world,
                         Outshine de sun." 67

        67 Allen, Slave Songs, 124, p. 101.


        Although the songs above tell the slave's dissatisfaction with the present world, there are other songs that relate his definite experiences of joy arising from a feeling of triumph over this world of sorrow by assurances of a future world of bliss. Some of these songs of joy are the following:


                         "I started home, but I did pray,
                         An' I met ole Satan on de way;
                         Ole Satan made a one grab at me,
                         But he missed my soul, an' I went free.


Page 62


                         My sins went a-lumberin' down to hell,
                         An, my soul went a-leapin' up Zion's hill." 68

        68 Am. J. Relig. Psy. and Ed., 3: 288.



                         "Ole Satan's church is here below.
                         Up to God's free church I hope to go.
                         Cry Amen, cry Amen, cry Amen to God!" 69

        69 Jacobs, p. 109.



                         "I'm so glad, so glad;
                         I'm so glad, so glad,
                         Glad I got religion, so glad,
                         Glad I got religion, so glad.
                         I'm so glad, so glad;
                         I'm so glad, so glad,
                         Glad I bin' changed, so glad,
                         Glad I bin' changed, so glad." 70

        70 Am. J. Relig. Psy. and Ed., 3: 309.



                         "My brudder have a seat and I so glad,
                         Good news member, good news;
                         My brudder have a seat and I so glad,
                         And I heard from heav'n today." 71

        71 Allen, Slave Songs, 120, p. 98.



                         "Brudder, guide me home, an' I am glad,
                         Bright angels biddy me to come;
                         Brudder, guide me home, an' I am glad,
                         Bright angels biddy me to come.
                         What a happy time, chil'n,
                         What a happy time, chil'n,
                         What a happy time, chil'n,
                         Bright angels biddy me to come.
                         Let's go to God, chil'n,
                         Bright angels biddy me to come." 72

        72 Ibid., 107, p. 86.



                         "I jus' got home f'um Jordan,
                         I jus' got home f'um Jordan,
                         I jus' got home f'um Jordan,
                         'Ligion's so-o-o sweet.
                         My work is done an' I mus' go,
                         My work is done an' I mus' go,
                         My work is done an' I mus' go,
                         'Ligion's so-o-o sweet." 73

        73 Am. J. Relig. Psy. and Ed., 3: 365.



                         "Shout an' pray both night an' day;
                         How can you die, you in de Lord?
                         Come on, chil'n, let's go home;
                         O I'm so glad you're in de Lord." 74

        74 Allen, Slave Songs, 80, p. 60.



Page 63


                         "Little children, then won't you be glad,
                         Little children, then won't you be glad,
                         That you have been to heav'n, an' you gwine to go again,
                         For to try on the long white robe, children,
                         For to try on the long white robe." 75

        75 Allen, Slave Songs, 108, p. 87.


        Even a slave, when dying, cried: "I am going home! Oh, how glad I am!" 76

        76 Plantation Life Before Emancipation, p. 168.


The following hymns also vividly set forth what happy anxiety the slave felt about his journey "home."


                         "Gwine to weep, gwine to mourn,
                         Gwine to get up early in de morn,
                         Fo' my soul's goin' to heaven jes' sho's you born,
                         Brother Gabriel goin' ter blow his horn.
                         Goin' to sing, goin' to pray,
                         Goin' to pack all my things away,
                         Fo' my soul's goin' to heaven jes' sho's you born,
                         Brother Gabriel gwine ter blow his horn." 77

        77 Am. J. Relig. Psy. and Ed., 3: 331.



                         "I want to go to Canaan,
                         I want to go to Canaan,
                         I want to go to Canaan,
                         To meet 'em, at de comin' day." 78

        78 Atlantic Monthly, 19: 687.



                         "I'm goin' home fer to see my Lord
                         Bear yo' burden, sinner,
                         An' don't you wish you could go 'long
                         Bear yo' burden, let in the heat." 79

        79 Am. J. Relig. Psy. and Ed., 3: 317.



                         "Oh, my mudder's in de road,
                         Most done trabelling;
                         My mudder's in de road,
                         Most done trabelling,
                         My mudder's in de road,
                         Most done trabelling,
                         I'm bound to carry my soul to de Lord." 80

        80 Fenner, Hampton and its Students, p. 215.



                         "Run, Mary, run,
                         Run, Mary, run,
                         Oh, run, Mary, run,
                         I know de oder worl' 'm not like dis.
                         Fire in de east an' fire in de west,
                         I know de oder worl' 'm not like dis,
                         Bound to burn de wilderness,


Page 64


                         I know de oder worl' 'm not like dis.
                         Jordan's ribber is a ribber to cross,
                         I know de oder worl' 'm not like dis,
                         Stretch your rod an' come across,
                         I know de oder worl' 'm not like dis" 81

        81 Fenner, Hampton and Its Students, p. 188.



                         "We will march through the valley in peace,
                         We will march through the valley in peace;
                         If Jesus himself be our leader,
                         We will march through the valley in peace." 82

        82 Allen, Slave Songs, p. 73.



                         "My sister's goin' to heaven fer to see my Lord,
                         To see my Lord, to see my Lord;
                         Well, my sister's goin' to heaven, to see my Lord,
                         What's de onbelievin' soul?" 83

        83 Am. J. Relig. Psy. and Ed., 3: 334.



                         "Bend-in' knees a-ach-in'
                         Body racked wid pain,
                         I wish I was a child of God,
                         I'd git home bim-by.
                         Keep prayin; I do believe
                         We're a long time waggin o' de crossin,
                         Keep prayin; I do believe
                         We'll git home to heaven bim-by.
                         O yonder's my old mudder,
                         Been a-waggin' at the hill so long;
                         It's about time she cross over,
                         Git home bim-by.
                         O hear dat lumerin' thunder
                         A-roll from do' to do',
                         A-callin' de people home to God;
                         Dey'll git home bim-by." 84

        84 Krehbiel, p. 99.



                         "When the roll is called up yonder,
                         I'll be there.
                         By the grace of God up yonder,
                         I'll be there.
                         Yes my home is way up yonder,
                         An' I'll be there.
                         I got a mother way up yonder,
                         I'll be there.
                         I got a sister way up yonder,
                         I'll be there." 85

        85 Am. J. Relig. Psy. and Ed., 3: 362.


        Although this world was a hell to the slave, still he could


Page 65

wait here with patience until the time of death, after which he would see the real home of his inner longing. To the slave heaven was a beautiful, comfortable place beyond the sky. It had golden streets and a sea of glass, upon which angels danced and sang in praise to Him upon the golden throne. There was no sun to burn one in that bright land of never-ending Sabbath. There kindred and friends reunited in the happiest relationships. The slave was poor, hampered, and sorrowful in this world; but in that world above, whose glory falling stars and melting elements would signify in the day of judgment, he would be rich and free to sing, shout, walk, and fly about carrying the news. There he would know no tears or the sorrow of parting, but only rest from toil and care, in the delightful companionship of the heavenly groups.


                         "Dere's no rain to wet you,
                         O, yes, I want to go home.
                         Dere's no sun to burn you,
                         O, yes, I want to go home.
                         O, push along believers,
                         O, yes, I want to go home.
                         Dere's no hard trials,
                         O, yes, I want to go home.
                         Dere's no whips a crackin'
                         O, yes, I want to go home." 86

        86 Atlantic Monthly, XIX, 687.



                         "Oh de hebben is shinin', shinin',
                         O Lord, de hebben is shinin' full ob love.
                         Oh, Fare-you-well, friends,
                         I'm gwine to tell you all,
                         Gwine to leave you all a-mine eyes to close;
                         De hebben is shinin' full ob love." 87

        87 Fenner, Hampton and Its Students, p. 219.



                         "How sweet a Sabbath thus to spend,
                         In hope of one that ne'er shall end." 88

        88 Am. J. Rel. Psy. and Ed., 3: 279.



                         "Yes my mother's goin' to heaven to outshin the sun,
                         An it's way beyon' the moon." 89

        89 Ibid., 337.



Page 66


                         "Po' man goin' to heaven,
                         Rich man goin' to hell,
                         For Po' man got his starry crown,
                         Rich man got his wealth." 90

        90 Am. J. Rel. Psy. and Ed., 336.



                         "Well there are sinners here and sinners there,
                         An' there are sinners everywhere,
                         But I thank God that God declare,
                         That there ain't no sinners in heaven." 91

        91 Ibid., 328.



                         O join on, join my Lord,
                         Join de heaven wid the angels;
                         O join on, join my Lord,
                         Join de heaven wid de angels." 92

        92 Ibid., 332.



                         "I'm gwin to keep a climbin' high
                         Till I meet dem angels in de sky.
                         Dem pooty angels I shall see--
                         Why doan de debbil let a me be?
                         O when I git to heaven goin sit an' tell,
                         Three archangels gwin er ring dem bells
                         Two white angels come a walkin' down,
                         Long white robes an' starry crown.
                         What's dat yonder, dat I see?
                         Big tall angels comin' after me." 93

        93 Ibid., 298.


        The following spirituals emphasize what the slave felt that he would do in heaven.


                         "Heaven, heaven,
                         Everybody talkin' bout heaven an' goin' there
                         Heaven, heaven,
                         Goin' to shine all 'round God's heaven." 94

        94 Ibid., 328.



                         "Oh, I wish I was there,
                         To hear my Jesus' orders,
                         Oh, how I wish I was there, Lord,
                         To wear my starry crown." 95

        95 Life before Emancipation, p. 163.



                         "A golden band all 'round my waist,
                         An' de palms of victory in-a my hand,
                         An' de golden slippers on to my feet,
                         Gwine to walk up and down o' dem golden street.


Page 67


                         Oh, wait till I put on my robe.
                         An' a golden crown-a placed on-a my head,
                         An' my long white robe a-com a dazzlin' down,
                         Now wait till I get on my gospel shoes,
                         Gwine to walk about de heaven an' a-carry de news,
                         Oh, wait till I put on my robe." 96

        96 Hampton and its Students, p. 187.



                         "You can hinder me here but you can't hinder me dere
                         For de Lord in Heaven gwin' hear my prayer.
                         De evening's great but my Cap'n is strong,
                         U'm fightin' fer de city an' de time ain't long." 97

        97 Am. J. Relig. Psy. and Ed., 3: 323.



                         "Well, my mother's goin' to heaven,
                         She's goin' to outshine the sun, O Lord,
                         Well, my mother's goin' to heaven,
                         She's going to outshine the sun, O Lord,
                         Yes, my mother's goin' to heaven to outshine the sun,
                         An' its way beyon' the moon.
                         The crown that my Jesus give me,
                         Goin' outshine the sun,
                         You got a home in the promise lan',
                         Goin' outshine the sun,
                         Goin' to put on my crown in glory,
                         An' outshine the sun, O Lord.
                         'Way beyon' de Moon." 98

        98 Ibid., 337.



                         "Gwine hab happy meetin',
                         Gwine shout in hebben,
                         Gwine shout an' nebber tire,
                         O slap yo' han's chilluns,
                         I feels do spirit movin',
                         O now I'm gittin' happy." 99

        99 Ibid., 299.



                         "Gwine to march a-way in de gold band,
                         In de army bye-and-bye;
                         Gwine to march a-way in de gold band,
                         In de army by-and-bye.
                         Sinner, what you gwine to do dat day?
                         Sinner, what you gwine to do dat day?
                         When de fire's a-rolling behind you,
                         In de army bye-and-bye.
                         Sister Mary gwine to hand down the robe,
                         In the army bye-and-bye;
                         Gwine to hand down the robe and the gold band,
                         In the army, bye-and-bye." 100

        100 Allen, Slave Songs, Song 103, p. 83.



Page 68


                         "You got a robe, I got a robe,
                         All God's children got a robe,
                         Goin' try on my robe an' if it fits me,
                         Goin' to wear it all round God's heaven." 101

        101 Am. J. Relig. Psy. and Ed., 3: 328.



                         "We'll walk up an' down dem golden streets,
                         We'll walk about Zion.
                         Gwine sit in de kingdom,
                         I really do believe, where sabbath have no end.
                         Look way in de heaven--hope I'll jine de band,--
                         Sittin' in de kingdom.
                         I done been to heaven an' I done been tried.
                         Dere's a long white robe in de heaven for me,
                         Dere's a golden crown, golden harp, starry crown, silver slippers,
                         In de heaven for me I know." 102

        102 Ibid., 294.



                         "I want to go to heaven when I die,
                         To shout salvation as I fly.
                         You say yer aiming for de skies,
                         Why don't yer quit yer tellin' lies.
                         I hope I git dere bye-an' bye,
                         To jine de number in de sky.
                         When I git to heaven gwine to ease, ease,
                         Me an' my God goin' do as we please,
                         Sittin' down side o' de holy Lamb.
                         When I git to heaven goin' set right down,
                         Gwiner ask my Lord fer starry crown.
                         Now wait till I gits my gospel shoes,
                         Gwin-er walk 'bout heaven an' carry de news." 103

        103 Ibid., 293.


        A boy of ten, being sold from his mother, said,


                         "I'm gwine to sit down at the welcome table,
                         Den my little soul's gwine to shine.
                         I'm gwine to feast off milk and honey,
                         Den my little soul's gwine to shine.
                         I'm gwine to tell God how-a you sarved me,
                         Den my little soul's gwine to shine." 104

        104 Hampton and its Students, p. 173.



        The place that heaven must have had in the attitude of the slave we shall now consider, by an examination of the slave's mental world. To do so we must feel the hand of slavery holding him in subjection to the will of the master.


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The inner voices that called the black slave at his task, clothed in simple garb, and living on homely fare, we also must hear speaking to us, and invoking the same response. Then we shall be able to appreciate the religious significance of the situations.

        The bell upon the white pole in the great-house yard summons the slaves to their daily tasks in the fields. Quickly, the slave-mother, rising from the cabin-floor, and taking her babe upon her back, sets out to join the crowd. With brawny arms around his mother's neck, the young child glares at the red rising of the sun, until he is left at the end of the row. Then as mother's hoe cuts grass from the tender corn, he hears her foot-steps blend with those of the plowman, her voice of love mingle with the mumble of slaves, and the songs of birds, that play in the warm sunlight of the morning. With longing eyes the child watches her who, last night, when her work was done, fed him from her breast, as she sat upon the cabin-floor, murmuring of a better world, where child and mother would know no weary sun. Sitting upon the green grass that fringes the end of the long rows, he watches her toiling, disappearing into the distance.

        Taken from his mother at the age of seven, the child is transferred to the great-house yard, where the harsh voices of slave-children, conscious of their lot, fill the air. Yesterday he sat in the cabin-door, upon grandmother's knee, listening to the grinding of the big mill down by the pond, and watching the squirrels drop acorns from the old oak tree. Last night he opened the door for father, who, worn from being away so long, brought few potatoes and corn. Then there was a great time. Father, in overalls, grandmother with a "slat-bonnet" upon her gray head, mother with a "grass-sack" around her waist, all knelt upon their knees in prayer to God above, father leading mournfully. "Get up in heaven by-and-by," he said, until all were filled with joy. How different things are today. The old mill by the pond is now seen lifting its white, bird-like wings into heaven, where mother, father and grandmother may


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be. They may be up there in the sunlight, singing and shouting with the angels.

        The dawn of another day comes in the life of the slave. Now all must help kill the "fatted hogs." The knives have been sharpened, the scaffolds built, the ashes brought up from the ash-heap. The slaves are gathered around the fire, warming themselves and waiting for the water in the big black pots to boil. They hear the shrill voice of the cock and the noise of the mules heralding the coming of day, when the presence of old master will stop their friendly discussions. While fading stars twinkle in the pines that cast ghost-like shadows upon the white-washed cabins, the slaves talk of their religious experiences, how they "overcame the devil in the wilderness" through the help of Christ. The stars were shining thus a year ago, when Aunt Lucinda died. She had been a good woman, never receiving a flogging. She used to make cakes for the neighbors and tell them when to plant their crops. When she died a bright star, like an angel, lit upon the cabin-roof, to take her soul away. This morning she is in heaven, wearing golden slippers, long, white robe, and starry crown, about which she used to sing in the camp-meetings.

        The big hogs killed and put into the "smoke-house" and the coming of night ending the slave's work, he is now allowed to attend the camp-meeting, in the log-house, down by the side of the river, that lies behind the big woods. In the leaves of the old red oak, that stands upon the shore and that is said to be the place of ghosts, he hears the noise of the wood owl, calling to him, as he takes his boat and glides silently away amid the solemn shadows that lie upon the deep, moon-lit waters. Unconsciously he sings the words of his comrades as they marched last night to the grave-yard:


                         "I know moon-rise;
                         I know star-rise;
                         Lay dis body down
                         I march to the grave-yard,


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                         I march through the grave-yard
                         Lay dis body down
                         I lay in de grave-yard and stretch out my arms,
                         Lay, dis body down."

        At the meeting-house, not only does he sing and shout, but each slave for some sinner-friend or relative who has been sold away, sincerely asks the prayers of the other. There parent prays for child and child for parent. "Sister Martha," dressed in gingham, is there, that gray-haired woman, who goes each day to the river, hoping that some message may come floating from her "Tom." She is there to weep and to rejoice and to talk with "Brother Robert" about the cross of Christ. The slaves, singing and shouting, tearfully kiss each other's cheek, shake hands, and part. They were there to worship and not to play.

        Inevitable then is the conclusion that the religion of the American slaves was decidedly different from the prevailing religion found among the peoples of Africa. We saw that fetishism was the prevailing religion found in Africa; that the few American slaves who maintained any of their African religious heritage were considered grossly superstitious by the American slaves generally; that the slave-groups brought to America from Africa were so broken up and scattered that the old group-habits did not continue to exist. We found on the other hand that the slaves of America, who were in contact with Christianity, became very enthusiastic over the Christian religion; that they developed a sorrow for this world and a joyous longing for heaven, as they showed by their shouts and songs. This emphasis upon a place of rest in heaven, we conclude, helped the American slave adjust himself to his particular environment. As it helped him to live, so it helped him also to die.

G. R. WILSON.