Katharine Gerbner (University of Minnesota)


Monday, October 22, 2018, 5:30pm to 7:00pm


42 Francis Avenue, CSWR Common Room
Title: Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World
This event will be live streamed, and can be viewed here when the event begins on Monday, October 22nd at 5:30 pm EST. 
Religion was fundamental to the development of both slavery and race in the Protestant Atlantic world. Slave owners in the Caribbean and elsewhere established governments and legal codes based on an ideology of "Protestant Supremacy," which excluded the majority of enslaved men and women from Christian communities. For slaveholders, Christianity was a sign of freedom, and most believed that slaves should not be eligible for conversion. When Protestant missionaries arrived in the plantation colonies intending to convert enslaved Africans to Christianity in the 1670s, they were appalled that most slave owners rejected the prospect of slave conversion. Slaveholders regularly attacked missionaries, both verbally and physically, and blamed the evangelizing newcomers for slave rebellions. In response, Quaker, Anglican, and Moravian missionaries articulated a vision of "Christian Slavery," arguing that Christianity would make slaves hardworking and loyal. Over time, missionaries increasingly used the language of race to support their arguments for slave conversion. Enslaved Christians, meanwhile, developed an alternate vision of Protestantism that linked religious conversion to literacy and freedom.
Katharine Gerbner is a McKnight Land-Grant Professor and Assistant Professor of History at the University of Minnesota. Her research explores the religious dimensions of race, authority, and freedom in early America and the Atlantic world. Her first book, Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018) shows how debates about slave conversion transformed the practice of Protestantism and the language of race. She has previously written articles about Obeah, Quaker slavery, print culture, and theories of conversion.



Co-sponsored with the Center for the Study of World Religions, the American Studies Program, and the Charles Warren Center.