Religion of Slavery


From the very beginning of the Atlantic slave trade, conversion of the slaves to Christianity was viewed by the emerging nations of Western Christendom as a justification for enslavement of Africans. When Portuguese caravels returned from the coast of West Africa with human booty in the fifteenth century, Gomes Eannes De Azurara, a chronicler of their achievements, observed that “the greater benefit” belonged not to the Portuguese adventurers but to the captive Africans, “for though their bodies were now brought into some subjection, that was a small matter in comparison of their souls, which would now possess freedom for evermore.”

Pangs of guilt over the cruelty inherent in enslaving fellow human beings were assuaged by emphasizing the grace of faith made available to Africans, who otherwise would die as pagans. Azurara’s pity was aroused by the tragic scene of a ship load of captive…

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