Religion and American Slavery
Lesson III. Religious Influences on Tensions Leading to the Civil War
Step 5. Timeline of Sectional Crisis and American Christianity
Write Your Opinion: Prepare for Class Discussion
Browse the Timeline of the events leading to the Civil War.
- In your opinion, how did Christian churches splitting over the issue of slavery help lead to war?
Famous Anglican revivalist minister George Whitefield preaches to thousands of enslaved African Americans and criticizes southern slaveholders for mistreating their slaves despite being funded by wealthy planters and having his own slaves
First Great Awakening
In the mid-18th century, a series of religious revivals, or the “First Great Awakening,” begin to change the religious landscape.
Early 1800s African Americans comprise about one-fifth of the population of the United States. The vast majority – over ninety percent – live in the South and are enslaved
Indian Removal Act
19th century Revivalists like Presbyterian Charles Grandison Finney speak out against slavery while some, like the Northern Methodists, want racial segregation in congregations
Black Methodist Church
1816 The African Methodist Episcopal Church is organized and its membership grows
Congress passes the Missouri Compromise and the issue of slavery is hotly debated in churches, often along geographic lines that mirror the sectional crisis.
Second Great Awakening
The “Second Great Awakening” is in full swing and ministers and churches fill the country. Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist revivalists attract thousands of Americans by preaching the importance of individual salvation over obedience to established churches, which is appealing to women and African Americans.
An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World
David Walker publishes An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, which argues for racial equality and urges African Americans to resist the proslavery logic of Christian slave owners. Walker and other black abolitionists argue that the Gospel supports abolitionism, not slavery as many pro-Christian slavery ministers claim
White mobs attack abolitionist meetings and Black churches in northern cities.
The Presbyterian Church starts to splinter
A white Presbyterian minister and abolitionist printer Elijah Lovejoy is murdered by a white mob.
Methodist Episcopal Church
The Methodist Episcopal Church breaks into Northern and Southern factions.
Southern Baptist Convention
The Southern Baptist Convention is formed separate from its northern counterparts.
Slavery as Sin
White ministers in the North continue to preach that slavery is a sin, while southern ministers argue that slavery is ordained by God.