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Human slavery


Christianity and slavery

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19th century quotations:

bullet"[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts." Jefferson Davis, President, Confederate States of America 1,2

bullet"The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example." Rev. R. Furman, D.D., a Baptist pastor from South Carolina. 3

bullet"I give my daughter, Joyce Falkner, present wife of John Falkner, of the county of Fayette and State of Virginia, a negro girl by name of Gemima otherwise called Mima. I give her to the above Joyce together with said Mima's increase forever and for the only use of the said Joyce, to will and dispose of as to her seemeth fit, hereby revoking all other claims of right or title to the said Gemima alias Mima of her increase forever." The 1791 will of Toliver Craig, disposing of his assets (and children of his assets) in the event of his death. 4

21st century quotation:

bullet"...the campaign to end slavery in the United States was for many years largely the work of a small number of Christians who opposed slavery on explicitly religious grounds and who at the time were regularly condemned as fanatical zealots, bent (as indeed they were) on imposing their religiously based views regarding this particular issue on all those who disagreed." Paul Campos 5

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The Christian church's main justification of the concept of slavery was based on the "curse of Ham" which appears in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) in Genesis 9:25-27:

"Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said, 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem'."

Christians at the time believed that Canaan had settled in Africa and that his descendents had become black.

Although slavery was widespread in Palestine during Jesus' ministry, the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) does not record his opinion of it. Slavery was casually mentioned without criticism in the various books of the Bible. It was accepted as a natural part of life by almost all Christians -- and followers of other religions -- until the 19th century CE.

Anabaptists started to criticize slavery in the late 17th century. They were joined by Quakers and Mennonites. It was only when John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of the Methodist movement, became actively opposed to slavery that the small protest became a mass movement resulting abolition of slavery.

Slavery is still advocated in North America by some Reconstructionist Christians and a few racist fringe groups within the Christian Identity movement.

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletUsing the Bible to justify slavery; Opposition to slavery in the early Christian church
bulletChristian support for slavery, prior to the late 17th century CE


The first attempts to abolish slavery:

  • Mennonite and Quaker demonstrations against slavery; late 17th century
  • Abolition gains momentum: 18th century

The final abolition of slavery:

bulletHow religions changed (and are changing) their teachings on slavery, and other topics

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  1. Dunbar Rowland quoting Jefferson Davis, in "Jefferson Davis," Volume 1, Page 286 and 316-317
  2. Jefferson Davis, "Inaugural Address as Provisional President of the Confederacy," Montgomery, AL, 1861-FEB-18, Confederate States of America, Congressional Journal, 1:64-66. Quoted in:
  3. Ref. Dr. Richard Furman, "Exposition of the views of the Baptists relative to the coloured population in the United States in communication to the Governor of South-Carolina," (1838), at:
  4. Jo Thiessen, Ed., "Slave Entries in Wills, Deeds, etc.," Kentucky African American Griots, at:
  5. Paul Campos, "Opinions: PAUL CAMPOS: Abortion and the rule of law ," Scripps Howard News Service, 2002-JAN, at: This Internet domain appears to be offline.

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Site navigation:

 Home page > Religious violenceSlavery > here

and Home page > Christianity History, practices...Slavery > here

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Copyright © 1999 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-SEP-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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