For our second week of class, we discussed the introduction, first, and second chapters from Carl Schermerhorn’s book. We covered slavery’s role in the American Revolution, how it not only made up much of America’s economy but also had an impact on practically all aspects of life in the fledgling states, and on some hollow and ineffective efforts by northern states to end or restrict the practice. We also looked at the 1619 project’s pros and cons as well as how history is taught generally. The American Paradox was one idea that stood out to the class.
Considering what we discussed this week and my own personal academic interests, an interesting research question for me would be: What was the role that Christianity had in justifying enslavement as well as in supporting abolition, like the Quakers did? What role did Christianity have for enslaved Africans in providing comfort and inspiration to resist?
When looking to find answers or more information regarding a research question, I would go to the library’s website to begin with and search for what books they may have on the topic. We also have access to sites like JSTOR through MSU. These places would be good in finding helpful secondary sources like scholarly books and articles with information that may help narrow down research questions. With some background research through secondary sources digitally, that makes it an appropriate time to search for actual primary sources.
For my research question, I think I’d search for early abolitionist pamphlets or writings by Quakers or church leaders who use religion to criticize the act of enslavement. The Library of Congress website, which there’s a link for on this site, contains a lot of scanned documents we can look at. When I searched, I found a section on Religion and the Church within a larger collection about African American Perspectives and within the Rare Book Collection. I found a scanned pamphlet from 1842 that actually accuses the churches in America of supporting the institution of slavery(1). I also found a considerably older pamphlet, from 1794, by Quakers that calls for abolition (2). (Interestingly, that pamphlet has the same use of “f” where “s” would be like we talked about in class this week).
After this week, I feel like we can search for scanned documents and find collections digitally fairly well, but I still feel like I’d like to find more websites where we can do that. It may be hard to find sources on the way that enslaved people felt about Christianity since enslaved people weren’t taught to read and were also actively encouraged not to. We do learn about their music and their use of Christianity as a way to take comfort in this life and to have inspiration to resist their enslavers. Maybe there’s some place I could find some of the lyrics to their songs. The research question is a wide one, but there are digital sources scanned online in collections that make for a good starting point in answering it.
(1). Birney, James Gillespie, and African American Pamphlet Collection. The American churches, the bulwarks of American slavery. Newburyport, Published by Charles Whipple, 1842. Pdf. https://www.loc.gov/item/01007524/.
(2). Abolition Societies In The U. S. The Committee to whom was referred the several petitions of the Quakers of New-England, of the Providence Society for the abolition of the slave-trade, and the petition from the delegates of the several societies for the same purpose, in Convent. Philadelphia, 1794. Pdf. https://www.loc.gov/item/rbpe.14801600/.