Slaveholders in the hands of an angry god
In the 18th century, slave-trading and slave-owning rose dramatically in New England and was much a part of life as possessing carriages, fine clothes and tea sets, according to Dr. Ken Minkema of Yale University’s Jonathan Edwards Center. He will put that history in perspective on 5 October when he speaks about “Religion, Race and Slavery in Colonial New England.” The talk begins at 7 pm and is free and open to the public, but prior registration is required.
The talk is co-sponsored by the library and the Witness to History: Slavery in Guilford Initiative.
In his talk, Dr. Minkema will look at how slavery was initially viewed as “ordained by the bible” and rationalized because it was viewed as “civilizing” and “Christianizing” people from Africa. Dr. Minkema will discuss how those views changed in one generation as slavery became morally unacceptable and a sin.
Emblematic of that change is the family of Rev. Jonathan Edwards Sr., the fire and brimstone Puritan preacher and theologian who wrote “Sinners in the hands of an angry god.” He possessed several slaves while his son, the Rev. Jonathan Edwards Jr., rejected the practice. As the younger Edwards lectured his parishioners, “You cannot sin at so cheap a rate as our fathers.” Times had changed.
In Guilford, slavery was “well established by the middle of the 18th century,” according to the late Ruth Balen, a lawyer who had lived here. Of the town’s Congregational clergymen “almost all owned slaves,” she wrote, noting “They (the ministers) were all Yale graduates and none until 1791 is on record as having made a public statement condemning or even questioning slavery.”