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This Far by Faith

Journeys

Timeline

People

About the Series
Discussions

1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA
Next Journey
Origins of Religious and Social Upheaval



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Timeline: 1526-1775 View Detailed Timeline
1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues



1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA
Origins of Religious and Social Upheaval




The Great Awakening was a watershed moment in the maturation of America, both politically and spiritually. The country was in the midst of a population shift as people moved south and west. They faced hard lives, trying to draw subsistence from the land while locked in violent confrontation with the Native Americans, whose land they were colonizing. Social democratic ideals were still forming in the heartland of colonial America and would come to the fore with the onset of the Revolutionary War. The radical evangelical message of Whitefield, Tennent, and Edwards had at its core those very same democratic ideals: all humankind is created equal before the eyes of God.


Woolman Hickson Preaching his First Sermon in Brooklyn, 1787.

Woolman Hickson Preaching his First Sermon in Brooklyn, 1787.


The Great Awakening was fundamentally a humanitarian movement, fostering religious, class, and racial tolerance. In its simple language and emotional fervor, it appealed to those who faced hard lives, whether black or white. And in its offer of spiritual fellowship and solace, it spoke directly to the black community.

Pointing to the inclusion of blacks and the unorthodox styles of the revivalist preachers, critics saw the Great Awakening as a threat to traditional clerical authority. Religious upheaval came in its wake, with growing Anglican and Quaker denominations becoming havens for those who disdained the flamboyant revivalist style. A rash of Baptist and Methodist denominations adopted the converted.


Portrait of Andrew Bryan.

Portrait of Andrew Bryan. Bryan raised money to build the first black Baptist church in Georgia, 1794-95.


For black people, The Great Awakening marked the first time they encountered a Christianity they could wholeheartedly embrace. Even by the time of the Revolution, only one to two percent would profess Christianity. Yet, gradually, collectively, they reconfigured the religion of their oppressors. Evangelism presented them with a refuge. At revivalist meetings, they were recognized as full human beings. They were encouraged to shout, sing, feel, and discuss their faith with their Christian brethren.

The healing power of evangelical religion, dramatically revealed to them in the revivalist movement, forged a bond between black people and Christianity that would endure for generations to come. White people, however, were now forced to provide answers. For years, slavery had been justified because Africans worshiped "heathen" religions. How to explain slavery now that they were Christians?




Did You Know?



The first black churches were established in Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia.
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