12 February 2012

Black History Month--Church History from the Voice of a Former Slave

For the last several years, February has been designated Black History Month.  One very negative aspect of American history that still evokes strong emotions was the era of slavery.  In relation to many segments of society, the memories of slaves are fairly rare.  Slave narratives nevertheless provide a window into the past from the viewpoint of those who were held in bondage against their will with little hope of obtaining freedom.

Some people want to forget this era in American history.  I personally don't think that would be a good idea.  I think it's important to use history as a tool to educate people regarding themselves.  In my opinion, human nature seems to be very static.  People will exploit others for their own material benefit, regardless of the moral ramifications.  Slavery still exists today, although it's not based upon race.  The reason?  Money and greed.  Racism definitely played an important role in the slavery of African Americans in the American South.  I would ask the question if it would've been prevalent if people had not thought the institution would materially enrich them.  I seriously doubt it.  As George Santayana once stated, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it."

That brings me to the point of this post.  My next lecture is on slavery in America.  That may not seem to have much to do with American church history, but in one way it does.  One of the really cool things about modern technology is the ability to record things that were impossible to save in earlier years.  Beginning in 1932, twenty-three former slaves contributed oral interviews that recounted their reminiscences of their time in slavery.  This oral history is interesting to say the least.  I am planning to utilize a video of one of these interviews in class to give students the opportunity to hear first-hand what former slaves thought of the institution.  One of the more famous of the interviewees was 101-year-old Fountain Hughes.  One of the topics, near the middle of the clip below, that Hughes discussed was the worship of the slaves.  This is an abridged version of the interview, but I would encourage any readers to check out these very interesting interviews that provide a look into the lives of former slaves many years after their emancipation.  Unsurprisingly, they did not view slavery in a positive light.  Hughes' comment at the end of the clip gives a good example of his opinion of slavery.  Here is a link to the video:

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