Religion and American Slavery

Lesson I. Religion's Impact on Shaping Colonial American Slavery

Step 1. Religious Freedom and American Slavery



Hi there. I’m Eleesha and I’m the director of the Utah 3Rs Project. We teach students to be good citizens by learning about the religion clauses of the First Amendment. We want students to:

·       Understand the right of conscience (or the right to follow what you believe is morally right)

·       Feel a responsibility to protect that right in others and

·       Respect the freedom to disagree.

One way we learn these competencies of citizenship is to learn about our nation’s history. We are especially interested in exploring how religion has shaped our individual and national stories. This includes learning about the early formation of our ideals about liberty, equality, and natural and civil rights.  It’s also important to learn about the parts of our history when we did not live up to our ideals of freedom for everyone. It’s by reflecting on the ways we have fallen short of our ideals in the past that we are inspired to make our American experiment in liberty a More Perfect Union today.

The freedom of religion is a natural right that everyone has because they are human. However, American society and government has not always protected this natural right for everyone. The institution of slavery suppressed the religious freedom of enslaved people. Yet they still expressed their religion in their own way as a form of resistance and as a way to keep their human dignity in the face of terrible oppression. This lesson explores the American story of ways religion was used to oppress enslaved people and the ways some enslaved people turned to religion to resist their oppression. 

Read Transcript of Video Collapse

Questions: Check for Understanding

The Utah 3Rs Project created this lesson, with support from the Civic Thought and Leadership Initiative at Utah Valley University. 

Answer these questions on your own paper. 

1. How does the Utah 3Rs Project teach students to be good citizens? 

2. What are the 3Rs in the Utah 3Rs Project? Here’s a hint: We want students to understand the right of conscience, feel a responsibility to protect that right in others, and respect the freedom to disagree. 

3. Why is it important to learn about the times in our history when we did not live up to our ideals of freedom for everyone?

Lesson I. Step 1 of 6


Learn more about how to promote the 3Rs — rights, responsibility, respect — in your school and community.