A hundred years ago one of the most difficult and important tasks confronting white men involved in the institution of slavery was to convince themselves that the human beings they imported as slaves were not human beings in the same sense that they were. They found this task somewhat difficult because their eyes and ears contradicted their attempts to relegate the black man to a subhuman status. Not only did the blacks look human, but they had demonstrated courage and intelligence and shared experiences like those of the whites. The white man was thus compelled to look elsewhere than to his senses for proof that the black man was his inferior. Since Christianity was firmly established as the religion of the colonies (and later the states), it seemed an excellent idea in the opinion of many whites to turn to their religion for confirmation of the black man's inferiority. A number of the Christian clergy were happy to assist the slaveholders and traders in finding the proof they sought, and thus, began one of the grimmest chapters in the history of American Christianity. Passages of the Bible were quoted out of context and completely misinterpreted to soothe the gnawing consciences of large numbers of men greedy for money and power. An attempt was also made to extend the concept of black inferiority to the slaves themselves as it was felt that they would be more docile and cooperative servants if they felt themselves to be in the control of their superiors. A gospel of black inferiority based on a misinterpretation of the Scriptures was preached to slaves throughout the country. This abuse of Christianity is surely not a new revelation, but scant attention has been paid it thus far. Therefore, this essay will show how Afro- American novelists of the pre-Civil War period perceived this abuse of Christianity and presented it to their readers.



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