the French army and declared Haitian independence between 1791 and 1804. Among Protestants, the Moravian Church had started missions to enslaved Africans in Danish, British and Dutch plantation societies in the eighteenth century. With their evangelical appeal and emphasis on cultivating a class of enslaved lay preachers, the Moravians made thousands of converts, particularly in the Danish West Indies and Antigua. That success inspired British evangelicals to launch a similarly aggressive mission campaign, and the early nineteenth century saw increasing numbers of black Baptists and Methodists in the British Caribbean.4
During the first half of the nineteenth century, likewise, enslaved African Americans in North America embraced Christianity with vigour as the plantation system expanded dramatically in the deep South and west of the Mississippi. With the end of the British transatlantic slave trade in 1808, the African-born proportion of the black population declined, supplanted by African Americans more receptive to Christianity. And whereas planters in the eighteenth century often tried to keep the religion away from slaves, fearing it would intensify their desire for freedom, a growing number of planters in the nineteenth century believed it their obligation to instruct slaves in Christianity, or at least in a selective version of the faith more compatible with bondage. Missionaries from all major Protestant denominations in the South preached to slaves of their Christian duty to submit to earthly authority, while planters touted their own benevolence in 'civilising' African Americans. From a white slaveholding perspective, Christianity became a central ideological buttress of the plantation system.5
Enslaved Christians, however, forged an alternative, and largely clandestine, belief system sometimes called the 'invisible institution' that worked in the shadow of the masters' religion. Reinterpreting the Gospels through the prism of their own life experiences, the slaves embraced a radical Christian ethic that inverted the lessons taught by white preachers. They claimed a special bond with Jesus, the rock of comfort as well as the redeemer and liberator. He suffered as they suffered; he died to save them because of their persecution, not despite it. Thus they considered themselves a chosen people, and Christianity became a religion of human freedom, not enslavement. These themes resonated likewise in the slaves' ready identification with the exile
4 Dubois, Avengers of the New World; Frey and Wood, Come shouting to Zion, pp. 80-8; Sensbach, A separate Canaan, pp. 29-43; Turner, Slaves and missionaries. See chapter 27 below, pp. 450-1.
5 Frey Water from the rock, pp. 243-83.
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