The Importance of Religion for African Americans  

Table of Content

Religion played an essential role during the time of oppression against the black community. The prominent religion exercised during this time was Christianity, the religion in which one freely believes and devotes his life to God based on teachings in the Bible. Richard Allen, who examined the struggles he faced when establishing the first African Methodist Episcopal Church, “believed if we [he and his friends] put our trust in the Lord, he would stand by us” (23). This was significant to the belief in God because Allen reveals the incentives that will be given in return for trusting in God. However, many slave owners during this time were Christian, so slave owners did not approve of the black community spending an eternity with them in Heaven. Therefore, they would either prevent blacks from learning the Word of God or cause blacks to despise God to ensure that they go to Hell.

Slave owners deemed the black community to be property rather than people, and they even utilized the Bible to defend their beliefs in slavery. One example to defend the use of slavery is found in the beginning of Romans 13, which says that God’s people must obey whatever laws are placed on Earth because they ensure stability (AP News). However, slave owners tend to ignore the other important aspects of the Bible that clearly stand against the methods used in slavery.

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Even though learning the Word of God became increasingly difficult, abolitionists did not hesitate to speak out against this injustice of religious freedom. Olaudah Equiano calls out these so-called Christians by inquiring if it is their same God who commands, “Do unto all men as you would men should do unto you?” (17). If God declares this in his Word, then white men should treat African Americans as equals. However, these white hypocrites choose to dismiss this section of the Bible because it contradicts their actions. Thus, through his own study of Scripture, Equiano proves that these slave owners are hypocrites. Another abolitionist, David Walker, declares that slavery clearly goes against the Bible. He states, “God made man to serve Him alone” (26). Therefore, if humans serving other humans is sinful, then God never approved of the methods used in slavery.

Because white slave owners became more sinful by restricting religion, the black community suffered horribly. Henry Highland Garnet examines the effects that slavery has on the souls of the black community. Because slavery “hurls defiance in the face of Jehovah” (59), blacks will not only refuse to learn the Word of God, but they will also begin to despise God. After all, if they believe that God loves His children, including slave owners, then they will not want to love that God. As a result, if African Americans condemn God for the rest of their lives, then these hypocritical white slave owners will receive everything they want: blacks never experiencing a joyful afterlife in Heaven. Therefore, religion must be established in the black community, despite all attempts to keep it out.

While it is important, religion must be established properly into the black community. If blacks attempt to learn about religion through white people, they will only hear one side of the Bible, which will most likely support slavery. The white reverends will not only preach certain aspects of the Bible to slaves, but they will also twist certain verses into what they believe. For example, even though the beginning of Romans 13 does not explicitly say that slavery is acceptable, these white reverends will claim that God’s intention in this chapter was supporting slavery. Therefore, blacks need to learn about religion independently. Instead of listening to the false preaching of white reverends, blacks must study the entire Bible to understand that God hates those who love violence. Therefore, He hates those who love slavery (slave owners). As mentioned before, Equiano studied Scripture independently to realize the hypocrisy of whites, who claim to serve God yet still defy Him. Thus, only through learning independently will the black community understand what God truly supports, and what He truly rejects.

Religion should be considered important in the eyes of the black community. Although white slave owners attempted to prevent blacks from being Christian, abolitionists rose against these people and preached against them. In a way, forbidding blacks from learning about God actually benefited the fight against slavery. Since they already had their freedom of religion taken away, blacks did not want to lose even more of their freedom. Therefore, they realized that it was finally time to start fighting against slavery instead of submitting to it.

Works Cited

  1. AP News. “Gillum: Sessions Cited Bible Verse Used to Justify Slavery.” AP NEWS, Associated
  2. Press, 20 June 2018, Sessions-cited-bible-verse-used-to-justify-slavery.
  3. Marable, Manning, and Leith Mullings. Let Nobody Turn Us Around: An African American Anthology. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2009.

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The Importance of Religion for African Americans  . (2021, Nov 30). Retrieved from

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