Religion and American Slavery

Lesson IV. Black Antebellum Abolitionists Motivated by Their Religion: Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth

Step 8. Coming Together

Questions: Prepare for Class Discussion

On the whole, religion was an important motivator for these abolitionists’ fight for freedom. Nat Turner fought for religious freedom, and all connected their community’s struggle to liberation and the Biblical story of Exodus. Religion was a large part of the responsibility they felt towards their communities and enslaved Black people everywhere. Religion strengthened bonds and enabled big and small rebellious acts. In the case of Denmark Vesey, he was able to draw on up to 9,000 slaves from the city of Charleston, South Carolina. Harriet Tubman risked her life to travel into the South and rescue many fellow slaves. And despite laws shaping public discourse about slavery, all still continued to speak out for abolition. They were powerful orators, called by God, they believed, to preach the truth of equality for all people. Specifically, the words of Sojourner Truth were heard loud and clear across the nation and have left a great impact even to today. 

Prepare for class discussion by choosing 2-3 questions and recording your response.  Write your answers on your own paper.

  • How was religion integral to these movements? How might their efforts have been different without religious elements?
  • What is religious freedom? Did rebellions create more or less religious freedom?
  • What does leadership look like? What leaders do you know of were “marked for greatness”?
  • How can religion organize a community and bring it together? What is something tying your community together?
  • How is literacy and public discourse important, especially in the context of the Antebellum era in American history? (The period leading up to the Civil War.)
  • This lesson emphasizes the importance of religious motivations for these historical figures. What other motivations do you think they had? 
Lesson IV. Step 8 of 8


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