Grand Illuminations | Christian Slavery

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“Her (Gerbner’s) lecture will reflect on her own journey as a historian, including her Quaker education and background, with a focus on her deep desire to understand things that seem like paradoxes, such as ‘Christian Slavery’ and Quaker slaveholding,” said Tony Cunningham, professor of philosophy at CSB and Saint John’s University and the director of the series. Quakerism is a 17th-century Protestant movement devoted to peaceful principles.

Gerbner is an associate professor of history at the University of Minnesota, where she teaches courses on Atlantic History, History of Religions. Magic and Medicine and the Early Modern Archive. Her research primarily focuses on the relationship between religion and race in the early American world, the Atlantic and the Caribbean. She grew up in Pennsylvania and attended a Quaker school, where her historical research led to the intriguing discovery that Quakers played a significant role in the course of slavery.

Gerbner’s book, “Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World” (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), explores how debates between slave owners, Black Christians and missionaries transformed the practice of Protestantism and the language of race.

“‘Christian Slavery’ refers to the belief that slavery could be reformed and made to be more Christian,” Gerbner stated in an interview with Kirsten Boles, assistant editor for Reading Religion. “Protestant missionaries often used this argument when they encountered resistance from slave owners who did not want their slaves to become Christian. It was an attempt to reconcile Christianity and slavery.”

This lecture is a part of the lecture series Grand Illuminations: Speaking from the Heart.

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