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Matthew Dennis

The inescapable culmination of life is mortality, and every community must deal with the death of its members, marking the event appropriately, disposing respectfully of mortal remains, offering condolence to the living, and returning life among survivors to normal. Few human communities have faced greater challenges in this regard than those African Americans enslaved in North America, as well as free blacks, during the colonial and early national periods. African American mortuary practices preserved, synthesized, and reworked African traditions and adapted New World customs imported to America by white European Christian colonists.

There is much about which we cannot be certain given the limited records and archaeological evidence available to us and considerable diversity characterized the people of African descent throughout North America during this era But it is clear that African American funerals and interments were creative hybrid practices expressions of African American culture that signaled the worth and ...


Thomas E. Carney

In 1950 the American Lutheran Church's Board of American Missions argued that its forefathers in early America either had opposed slavery or had had nothing to do with it. To support this position, the church board listed a number of facts: only a few Lutherans were in early America, the Lutherans—Germans, Swedes, and Norwegians—came from non-slave-trading nations, in 1790 only 3 percent of Germans owned slaves, and the American Lutheran Church had no organized effort to evangelize blacks until 1877. Thereafter, little was written about the relationship between the American Lutheran Church and blacks in early America, but there is a much more sophisticated story to be told.

The institutional Lutheran Church first appeared in North America with the establishment of the colony of New Sweden in the Delaware River valley in 1638 The colony however did not last long as it was seized by the Dutch in ...


Terry D. Goddard

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the Methodist Church and African Americans. The first article provides a discussion of the topic from the colonial period to the antebellum era, while the second article discusses the topic through the nineteenth century.]


Peter Hudson

When the Methodist Episcopal Church formally separated from the Anglican Church on Christmas Eve 1784, it declared that within a year all slaves owned by Methodists would be set free. The church soon drifted from this position, however. “On the local level it was not expedient to free slaves,” writes religious scholar Richard E. Wentz. “Preachers began to develop a theological position that concerned itself only with the saving of souls and left social ethics to the government.” Individual parishes were allowed to develop their own positions regarding slavery, but the questions it provoked haunted the church well into the next century.

By the 1830s a number of congregations in the North had left the church because this ambivalent posture conflicted with their own abolitionist stance In the South however Methodist planters vehemently fought for the institution that was the foundation of their economy To further protect themselves ...


Daniel W. Hamilton

Reconstruction politician, civil rights leader, and murder victim, was born free in Kentucky, the child of parents of mixed ethnicity whose names are unknown. When he was a child Randolph's family moved to Ohio, where he was educated in local schools. In 1854 he entered Oberlin College's preparatory department, before attending the college from 1857 to 1862. At Oberlin Randolph received instruction both in the liberal arts and at the college's theological seminary. Soon after graduation he was ordained as a Methodist Episcopal minister. During the Civil War Randolph served as a chaplain in the Twenty-sixth Colored Infantry, which was dispatched to Hilton Head, South Carolina, in 1864.

After the war ended in 1865 Randolph applied for a position with the Freedmen s Bureau He was not initially given an appointment but was instead sent to South Carolina by the American Missionary Association a ...


Racial categories are still being practised even though most scientists agree that genetically speaking there is little or no validity for dividing groups of humans in this way Although the creation of racial hierarchies has to a large extent fallen into disrepute skin colour remains a powerful signifier in contemporary ...