North Carolina to Rhode Island. Quaker networks facilitated the sharing of information, ideas, and personnel and helped create the impression that the sometimes discrete initiatives constituted a movement. Friends in England represented the first petitioners and fundraisers for the cause of abolition in the 1780s. Their example would lead other denominations in Britain, particularly the Methodists and Separate Baptists, to make support for antislavery one measure of a commitment to the faith. Within the Society of Friends, this marriage was so complete that, by the last two decades of the eighteenth century, to be a Quaker was to be an abolitionist. The Methodists and Baptists, by contrast, with their desire to convert the slave-holding south and later the British West Indian colonies, found it far more difficult to require that members embrace abolitionist principles. In those regions, antislavery threatened to split the church.
Churches also provided a context in which the enslaved themselves could seek their liberty. As slaveholders feared, the conversion of enslaved men and women to Christianity had the unintended effect of producing new avenues for the pursuit of freedom. Converts sometimes made use oftheir admission to the Christian fellowship to assert a claim to the liberty enjoyed by other members of the faith, even though, in every instance, the clergy and the slaveholding elite denied that conversion bestowed such benefits. These expectations for social advancement could lead to unrest, as when black communicants in Virginia revolted in 1730 as a response to rumours that British instructions to free enslaved black Christians had been suppressed. Enslaved African Catholics born in the Kingdom of the Kongo, under Portuguese control, fled to Spanish territory from British and Dutch settlements in the Americas in search of religious liberty, as well as freedom itself. In part, Methodist and Baptist preachers in North America attracted more black converts than their Anglican predecessors during the last half of the eighteenth century because the promise of freedom from sin also seemed ultimately to offer the prospect of freedom from slavery. The evangelicals offered blacks new tools with which to resist their bondage. They fostered literacy among the enslaved. Some learned to write as well as to read. So it became possible to disseminate antislavery protests in a way that could circulate beyond one's immediate environs, and in the cultural idiom of the dominant society.
The first black abolitionists - Phillis Wheatley, Lemuel Haynes, Ottobah Cugoano, Olaudah Equiano, among others - were steeped in Calvinist theology. It was conventional for these writers to cast their personal salvation in terms that recommended the potential for repentance and purification for society as a whole. Their position within the faith allowed them to question
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