Harvard Students Create Exhibit on Relationship Between Christianity and Slavery

A new exhibit at the Andover-Harvard Theological Library at Harvard Divinity School focuses on Christianity ands its relationship with slavery.

“The Yoke of Bondage: Christianity and African Slavery in the United States” features documents, including rare books, that range from 1619, when the first slaves were brought to Virginia, to the Civil War’s end in 1865. The texts analyze the debate during that period among Christian theologians, authors, and adherents who either justified slavery or stood against it. The collection was curated by 10 students in the first year seminar class, “Christianity and Slavery in America 1619-1865.”

Among the exhibit are pamphlets, sermons, speeches, poems, and personal narratives that both support and condemn slavery. At the center of the collection is the writings of Black Christian authors, including Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, and Phillis Wheatley. Other pieces include the work of authors who used biblical passages to support their positions on slavery and works of supporters of the antislavery and abolitionist movements.

“The relationship between Christianity and slavery was not an easy one,” said Seven Richmond, one of the students in the seminar. “This debate carried over to politics and economic issues that really were an inspiration for the whole Civil War. I think it’s important to realize the impact and importance of religion and how religious disagreements can lead to broader disagreements in a whole political climate.”

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