Religion and Slave Narratives----A Lesson Plan
Obi; or, The History of Three-Fingered Jack
Amri’s introduction to religion happens on the slave-ship. She learns that nature is “The great Creator,” answered he; “He to whom you owe your being. “I did not rightly comprehend him, but he soon gave me to understand I worshipped a false god” (18). Captain Harrop’s explanation lies in anti-blackness and control. There is an assumption that Amri’s God is a false god because her spirituality is grounded in blackness or what Captain Harrop and others like him think about blackness. In focusing on what God is or represents in this text, it is crucial to think about religion and control. Captain Harrop positions God as the “father of them all” (18). God, to Captain Harrop, represents whiteness, and this entity takes on a parental role, which symbolizes aspects of control.
Interestingly, Obeah is described as deluding” Negroes, who thoroughly believe in their supernatural powers” (55). The practice of Obeah functions as a tool of freedom for enslaved Africans. Therefore, the colonialist intends to downplay its spiritual power to the dominant society and the enslaved. Obi as a text makes me think about how religion and control work; why is it important to explore this topic in the classroom? I think that students should focus on scholarship regarding the enslaved and religion. How has religion shaped the psyche of the enslaved?
- To explore religion as a means of control in the slave narrative;
- To contextualize slavery as an institution in slave narratives;
- To determine whether gender roles find a place in the discussion of religion and slavery;
- To observe the role of violence and religion in slave narratives;
- To observe how African indigenous religions are othered and demonized
Texts to Observe:
For this assignment/lecture, students will have access to primary texts through the National Humanities Center Resource Toolbox The Making of African American Identity: Vol. I, 1500-1865 database This is a pdf file that students will use for a close reading assignment.
- Fredrick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom, 1855
- William J. Anderson, Life of William J. Anderson, Twenty-four Years a Slave, 1857
- Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, 1861
Secondary Materials are Available Through JSTOR:
- Religion for Slaves: Difficulties and Method by Haven P. Perkins
- The Religious Ideals of Southern Slave Society by Eugene D. Genovese and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese
Students will look at slavery and religion through an Antebellum Southern lens. Before the lesson begins, students will be required to read the secondary materials from JSTOR. Students will receive a background history of slavery, the South, and religion; discussion over the JSTOR articles will commence. Then, I will introduce students to their group project. Students will be required to complete a close reading of one of the selections given in the PDF per their group number assignment. Students will pay attention to diction and syntax to effectively to evaluate the text. Through this evaluation, students will explore class objectives and secondary materials to complete a useful close reading of their assigned text.