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Slavery and the Making of AmericaDrawing of a sermon at the First African Church in Richmond, Virginia
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"Shall We Give Bibles to Three Millions American Slaves?" 1847
Courtesy of Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, African-American Pamphlet Division

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Photo of an excerpt from 'Shall We Give Bibles to Three Million American Slaves'
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Document Description
Because Christian writings and tenets were open to conflicting interpretations, white attitudes toward slave conversion were ambivalent. Published by the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, this statement presents arguments for distribution of Bibles to slaves.

Transcript
It is more than thirty years since the American Bible Society was formed, for the purpose of supplying the whole people of the United States with the Holy Scriptures. Yet the great body of slaves, amounting to one-sixth of our population, are still unsupplied. And no systematic effort has ever been made to supply them. Is it not high time that an effort should be made to unite, for this purpose, the counsels and the charities of all who love the Bible, however diversified may be their views on other subjects?

It is believed that the present is a favorable time for such an effort. The welfare of our churches, the increasing interest which is felt for the condition of the slaves, the state of public opinion, call for the proposal of this method of action in favor of the slaves. All religious men should cordially unite in this noble purpose, for it is clearly right and practicable, and purely benevolent and salutary to all parties, and it may lead all those who engage in it to cooperate in other well devised plans for the good of the oppressed.

If heartily undertaken, and earnestly pursued, in conjunction with other obvious duties with reference to the slaves, will it not restore to our churches those feelings of brotherly love, confidence and cooperation, which never fail to be followed by the outpouring of God's Spirit, and the extensive revival of true religion?

The following considerations seem worthy of general attention:--

I.--It is a sin to withhold the Bible from any.

Says the Rev. Albert Barnes, in his late work on slavery:

"The withholding of instruction is forbidden in the New Testament. Nothing is mere definite in the Bible, or more in accordance with all our views of what is proper and right, than the declarations that all men have a clear right to know the truth; to receive instruction; to have free access to the oracles of God. Luke xi. 52: 'Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in, ye hindered.' John v. 39: 'Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me.' Prov. xix. 2: 'That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good.'" p. 361.

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