their personal and collective history in the context of sacred history. Evangelicalism, with its emphasis on spiritual death, purification, and rebirth seemed to describe particularly well the torturous journey of Africans in the Americas from enslavement, violent passage, captivity, and, perhaps, liberation. This legacy suggested that God had a special purpose for black people in the Americas. Black preachers across the United States characterized Americans of African descent as God's chosen people, now suffering under the bondage of 'Our Modern Egyptians', as Phillis Wheatley famously suggested, but destined for redemption, salvation, and freedom through God's saving grace. Unlike the Puritan settlers, blacks could not think of themselves as entering a new Eden. Instead, they were arising like Lazarus, from deprivation and despair to reclaim their rightful heritage. In this interpretive framework, what lay ahead for men and women of African descent was a new Exodus, an escape from bondage, the day of jubilee when all wrongs would be redressed and blacks, as latter day Hebrews, would enjoy divine protection. This was the radical potential invoked by black ministers from the pulpit in the last years of the British and American slave trades. It was not unusual for these same preachers to see the new Zion in West Africa, where black Americans, the descendants of African heathens, would return to bring civilization and the gospel.21
The Africanization of Catholicism also figured in the Haitian Revolution, the most radical of the antislavery movements of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In Saint Domingue, as elsewhere in the French Caribbean, Jesuit missionaries had experienced some success in converting enslaved Africans to Christianity, though always under the watchful eye of the planter class. In this respect, the history of Christianity in Saint Domingue differed little from the history of Christianity in other plantation colonies in the West Indies or South America. It would seem, however, that the expulsion of the Jesuits from San Domingue in 1763 expedited the development of a highly unorthodox version of Catholicism, deeply inflected by African rituals, beliefs, and cosmologies, that helped provide enslaved men and women with a common framework in which to understand their condition and themselves. This absorption of Catholic iconography into Vodun rites may explain why leaders of the uprising appropriated and manipulated Christian symbolism to impress and inspire their followers. The rebel leader Romaine Riviere, to give just one example, declared himself a prophet in the summer of 1791 and established a camp in an abandoned church where he claimed to enjoy 'direct communication with the Virgin Mary'. In this way, black political leaders invoked and appropriated the spiritual and moral authority of Catholic saints to enhance the legitimacy of rebellion and revolution. Across Saint Domingue,
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