African-American Religion: A Documentary History Project
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Race, Religion, and Nationalism: Three Books


Biblical Archetype, African-American Reality:
Assessing Eddie Glaude’s Exodus!: Religion, Race, and Nation in Early Nineteenth-Century Black America

Will B. Gravely
Professor-Emeritus, University of Denver

Note: Presented at the “Race, Religion, and Nationalism: Three Books” Symposium, Amherst College, October 26, 2001. Copyright © 2001 by the author and the Trustees of Amherst College. All rights reserved.

Three Stories as Personal Preface

     Thirty-five years ago in October 1966 I drove retired Duke professor H. Shelton Smith (then revising a book on racism in southern white religion) from Durham down to Georgia. For me the purpose of the trip was to visit the library at the Interdenominational Theological Center at Atlanta University where I was looking for sources for my dissertation subject, the white Methodist abolitionist and anti-racist reformer Gilbert Haven (born over in Malden in this state).1 While I did not succeed in finding many connections to Haven’s life, I had my first glimpse at historical sources of African-American Christian traditions.2 The following summer (1967) while living and working at ITC I was virtually overwhelmed by the multiplicity of materials which we moved from the Gilbert Haven Library on the old Gammon Theological Seminary campus and reclassified for the new library’s collection. One example of such sources which became part of what we called then the library’s Negro Church History collection was W. E. B. Du Bois’s personal copy of the AME Church Magazine published between 1840 and 1848 and still little known and used by researchers. My essential point in this reminiscence is to recount my first significant engagement with the literature of and about African-American Christianity—a topic which figures prominently in Eddie Glaude’s study, Exodus!3

     A second story: Thirty years ago when the American Academy of Religion convened in Atlanta in November 1971, one of its plenary speakers was Vincent Harding. His talk, “The Afro-American Experience as a Source of Salvation History,” stunned his audience of mostly white scholars. We all struggled with the sense that a familiar American and yet somehow unfamiliar American story was being narrated which did not compute with our prior assumptions. Perhaps especially threatening was Harding’s line to the effect that—if the God of his African forefathers (he would add foremothers today) was not also the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then the Jews and the Christians could have him.4 My own response was that we should have sat in silence for a long time in order to take in what had been presented, but as you might expect from us anxious academics there was little chance of that. The exclusionary threat was later reinforced in the meeting when the Society for the Study of Black Religion held sessions open to all for the presentations but closed for African Americans only for the discussion of those papers. I tell this story in part to connect with the next one but also to link to an earlier version of what Glaude calls “salvific history” (94) which represented Harding’s language that night and his agenda that brought forth a decade later his books The Other American Revolution and There Is A River.5

     A third story: Beginning in the early 1970s, the famous sociologist of religion Robert Bellah came to Denver several times for lectures and conferences to discuss “the civil religion debate” growing out of his famous essay from 1967 and then his national bicentennial book The Broken Covenant.6 Offering a new take on Rosseau’s term “civil religion” and rethinking Durkheim in terms of religion and nation in the United States, Bellah introduced to me the schema of biblical archetype but not biblical content, or biblical paradigm with American national experience as the content. While hosting him in Colorado, I tried several times to engage him about what I had found, triggered by reading Benjamin Quarles’s Black Abolitionists,7 about the pre-Civil War black tradition of freedom celebrations. Expanding on what Quarles had surveyed generally, I had by 1973 done the research for a piece on the freedom celebrations from 1808–63 which was later published in the Journal of Negro History.8 I gave Bellah the unpublished draft I had been presenting for several conferences but it was a failed effort in terms of getting his attention.

     I was trying to communicate that there was something else going on in this country between Bellah’s first time of crisis (the Revolution of 1776) and his second time of crisis (the Civil War) in which another kind of America was being envisioned and acted out by free black people in the North. I cannot know to what extent (anticipating the discussion of David Blight’s book) growing up in 1940s and 1950s South Carolina affected my ability to detect another “nationality,” which we regularly celebrated in white schools on Confederate Memorial Day. Recent explorations into my family history yield three great-grandfathers and one great-great grandfather fighting for the Confederate nation in the Civil War. Be that as it may, for my future work in African-American religious history, I was fortunate to have mentors and allies like Preston Williams and David Wills and, through hearing them speak and reading their work, Charles Long and Lawrence Jones, and after meeting him about 1975 Vincent Harding. Those of you who have followed Bellah’s work know that Harding has been the most consistent critic of his later formulations of voices and traditions in US culture as in Habits of the Heart which ignore or too simply assimilate the black national voice or voices.9 Eddie Glaude’s book now occupies some of that turf which is the subject of our panel.

Re-reading African-American Exodus

     Exodus! is a work with a complex interdisciplinary orientation. Glaude’s book is in dialogue with at least four scholarly contexts: African-American studies in history, literature and political thought; the history of US and of African-American religion from 1780–1850; public philosophy engaging the issues of race and culture; and critical literary and communication theory offering new readings to specific often well-known speeches and publications from the period.10 Through these cross-disciplinary engagements Glaude examines the complicated nature of African-American national consciousness which emerged during and after the First Emancipation—the gradual freeing of slaves across the northern states. Throughout there is creative interplay between interpretive frameworks and texts (like David Walker’s Appeal), between interpretive frameworks and institutional developments (as in the emergence of independent black churches for example) and between interpretive frameworks and public ritual and deliberation (occurring in freedom celebrations and the national colored convention movement).

     The primary metaphor, as the title including its exclamation mark indicates, for this African-American nationality is the biblical narrative of the ancient Israelite exodus. Here Glaude reinterprets Michael Walzer’s work on exodus and revolution which, he notes, had but a single African-American reference to the theme. To contrast with such European-American versions of nationality and nationhood Glaude expands on the work of one of his teachers, Al Raboteau. In 1994 Raboteau identified a distinctive African-American appropriation of exodus which presents an alternative Christian America related to but distinct from a European American version of Christian America.11

     This book is divided into two parts: Exodus History and Exodus Politics. The introduction’s allusion to “strangers in a strange land” echoes Charles Long’s phrase locating one of three chief features of African-American collective history as formative for comprehending black religious life—“the involuntary presence of the black community in America.”12 In that context Glaude makes the claim “No other story in the Bible has quite captured the imagination of African Americans like that of Exodus” (3). Then he states his intention “to explore the ways the story became a source for a particular use of nation language . . . as well as a metaphorical framework for understanding the middle passage, enslavement, and quests for emancipation” (3). After differentiating his perspectives on nationality and on exodus from Eugene Genovese and Walzer, Glaude affirms an earlier definition of black nationalism as best expressed in racial solidarity.

     In his second chapter Glaude turns his attention to how “the nation is imagined not alongside religion but precisely through the precepts of black Christianity” and how it is embodied institutionally in the independent black church. Drawing on Evelyn Brooks Higgenbotham’s phrase “the public dimension of the black church,” but locating his definition of publics in John Dewey’s philosophy, he can speak of the church’s role as a formed public. After recounting some of the historical events that depict the rise of the independent black churches, and thus inevitably discussing “the gallery incident” in late-eignteenth-century Philadelphia, Glaude locates the church along with other voluntary associations and (in a later chapter) the national convention movement in expanding the dimensions of a “black political public in the North” (91).

     He then reinterprets DuBois in two respects. First he recasts Du Bois’s formulation of “double-consciousness” and substitutes for that dialectic Hortense Spillers’s phrase “structure of ambivalence.” Secondly, Glaude takes on Du Bois’s depiction of black religion in Souls of Black Folk as characterized by either “a form of deep religious fatalism and a pragmatically driven social ethic,” or by “other-worldly escapism” alongside a “this-worldly sense of racial advocacy” (30). Using Raboteau on slave religion as a corrective and situating Du Bois’s observations historically in the new dilemmas facing late-nineteenth-century blacks, Glaude advances his goal of freeing the black religious dynamic from static stereotypes. That move enables him to return to the early nineteenth century, initially to highlight Daniel Coker’s conflation of the African church movement with I Peter 2:9–1013 in his publication of 1810 (34), and then to a sustained and impressive rereading of David Walker’s Appeal (34–43). For Glaude, Walker’s text demonstrates “the inseparable linkage between black religious life and black political activity” (42).

     “Exodus, Race, and the Politics of Nation”—chapter 3—offers us another theoretical formulation of the process by which the God of the ancient Israelite exodus becomes the God of oppressed black people. To achieve that link Glaude borrows Werner Sollors “typological ethnogenesis”—“the sense of peoplehood that emerged through the hermeneutic of biblical typology” (42). For comprehending the European American archetype of exodus, Glaude shows how Sacvan Berkovitch recasts the Puritan “errand into the wilderness” and its later reshaping via revivalism and colonial war into “the American ideology” with its ultimate expression tying “the rights of personal ascent to the rite of social assent” (47). By positing America as the New Canaan from Puritanism to its transformation in the Revolution of 1776, Glaude, drawing on a Vincent Harding quotation, can then set up the African-American reversal of the Exodus with Egypt as the US, the seat of Pharoah located in the national capital and the black Old Israel present in the midst of the European American New Israel (48). It is in this context that Glaude first calls attention to how the racial color code of “white” is central to the construction of the American ideological consensus (52).

     In chapter 4 Glaude takes us to the political heart of the Exodus analogy in his pragmatic reformulation of race as a sociological category and of nation language as the basis for an ethical confrontation “against the racist practices of white America.” The Second Great Awakening, the rise of the independent churches and the formation of the first black newspapers enabled African Americans to deepen their Exodus vocabulary and express it in religio-political channels. But those developments also enable us, Glaude believes, to chart the shifting uses of words like nation and race from an earlier to a later context between 1780 and 1850. Following the rise in the 1830s of scientific racism popularized by writers in the American School of Anthropology, race, Glaude insists, meant something different when rooted in a false biology than it had previously meant either as “benevolent environmental accounts of racial differences” (67) or even as cruder but not yet scientific versions of “the radical otherness of blacks” (68). A similar shift in the meanings came to be associated with the idea of nation especially as it merged into an American ideology of chosenness and manifest destiny with its own racist and chauvinistic form. As dominant as that paradigm was, however, it had to coexist with an emergent African-American nationality with its Exodus theology which was confident that “the God active in history who delivered Israel would surely deliver the oppressed in the United States” (81).

     In “The Nation and Freedom Celebrations”—his fifth chapter—Glaude imaginatively links Catherine Bell’s theory of ritual to the antebellum African-American commemorations of the end of the foreign slave trade in 1808, the abolition of slavery in the state of New York and the August first holiday honoring West Indies emancipation beginning in 1834.14 These public expressions of black nationality demonstrated the making and remaking of certain forms of power relations both within “black civil society” (16, 18) and within the larger US context. Such commemorative activity gave orators the occasion to draw on collective memory, to narrate the black Exodus saga and thus to inject into the larger public discourse an African-American “countermemory” to the master narrative in which the US was not figured as Canaan but as Egypt (83ff.). The themes of Africa, the middle passage, the brutality of slavery were crucial elements of the black Exodus narrative but typically orators also gave thanks for the event being celebrated and articulated the duties of the black nation and of its white allies. The repetitive nature of these rituals created a “calendrical critique” of the US where attention could be directed to counterideological acts which were regularly occurring in the ongoing freedom struggle.

     The January first sermon of Absalom Jones in Philadelphia in 1808 confirms how the biblical Exodus narrative both consciously and unconsciously shaped black nation language (45). “Absalom Jones’s analogical use of Exodus,” Glaude writes,

. . . presupposed (and simultaneously created) the corporate unity of the participants while reorganizing memories of Africa in the construction of an African American identity. . . . Here God’s activity in history (salvific history) becomes the basis for rereading the past and mobilizing memories in a dialectical relation with more secular accounts of history. Africa is reread; the middle passage and slavery are reread; America is reread; and aspirations for freedom and citizenship are formulated as divinely sanctioned ends (94).

The dynamism of such reading strategies harmonized with other basic elements of the celebration ritual which Glaude, joining Paul Gilroy in The Black Atlantic, considers as distinctive in generating a black national tradition concerned not only with “recollection and memory” but also with “projection and anticipation” (101).

     In part two, “Exodus Politics,” three chapters interpret the convention movement, the American Moral Reform Society and the famous address by Henry Highland Garnet at the national convention of 1843. In chapter six Glaude finds in the early colored conventions beginning in 1830 a primary institutional effort to debate from within the public vocabulary of the black Exodus narrative the pressing issues around emigration posed by the program of the American Colonization Society and by terrorist threats from white mobs.15 Over the next five years alongside the new abolitionist agitation the focus of the conventions came to be on “mental and moral improvement”—an orientation Glaude recasts in Evelyn Brooks Higgenbotham’s phrase “the politics of respectability” and rereads as “a form of cultural politics that assumes the importance of self-determination” (118, 124).

     Along the same lines Glaude in chapter seven reinterprets the role of William Whipper and the American Moral Reform Society, which was one (but not the only) successor after 1835 to the colored convention movement. Acknowledging that the AMRS was an important test case of the dangers of reducing “racial discrimination to the private sphere,” (127) he contends that its founder’s self-help philosophy and apparent effort to transcend race should be understood in the context of the new scientific racism and of a dominant proslavery ideology powerful in both North and South [Tise]. While reinforcing his own preference for a pragmatic view of race found in Whipper’s most astute critics, Glaude nonetheless is able to rehabilitate Whipper’s point of view as belonging to the “immanent conversation about racism” (127) within free black communities.16

     In the final chapter Glaude offers his take on Garnet’s “Address to the Slaves” as an example of what Walzer calls “political messianism.” But even the alternative of the call to violence with its own echoes in the Old Testament has its Exodus symbology, so Glaude quotes Garnet: “If you must bleed, let it all come at once, rather die freemen, than live to be the slaves. It is impossible, like the children of Israel, to make a grand exodus from the land of bondage. The Pharaohs are on both sides of the blood-red waters!” (156). That passage which gave Glaude his title for chapter 8 also framed the motif of his epilogue and its theme “the tragedy of African-American politics.” In his penultimate paragraph he says of that theme:

. . . I read Henry Highland Garnet’s address as exposing the tragic sense of life at the heart of African American politics: the fact that we are constantly having to choose either to identify ourselves with this fragile democracy, struggling for its soul, or to define ourselves over and against it—and live with the consequences of such choices without yielding to despair. Pharaoh or some such evil is indeed on both sides of the blood-red waters (167).

Amplifications of Historical Motifs in Exodus!

     I want to say up front how much I like Glaude’s work for its contribution to revising historical perspectives. What a terrific cover he and his associates at the University of Chicago selected in the Aaron Douglas painting! I have been amazed in observing his mind at work as I have read now three versions of this manuscript. Perhaps implicating me in some respects in the final product which the book represents, that process certainly reduced the number of critical issues I might have raised with respect to earlier drafts. There are, however, three areas of historical inquiry I would call attention to for possible discussion.
I first suggest that by passing over the specific terms of the contested nature of the ecclesiastical exodus which gave rise to the independent churches, Glaude risks missing a crucial feature of the achievement they represent. Paying attention to the mundane aspects of church polity as the contested arena in the ecclesiastical exodus would have permitted a stronger tie of that early form of exodus politics to his later discussion of race politics focusing on conventions and the American Moral Reform Society. His discussion makes the AME Church too representative of a much broader cross-denominational phenomenon of African-American religious nationality which is to be differentiated from while usually in tension with European American Christianity. Secondly, I want to press the case for the pre and post 1830 black abolitionist movement to be reevaluated as practical work in black nation building, and not to see it swallowed up in a coalitional but white dominated antislavery movement. As a third issue, I call for more attention to the black state conventions and ask how exodus politics might also be present in African-American involvement in electoral contests involving the antislavery political parties beginning in the 1840s and in that sense anticipating Reconstruction.

     As I did the research for an essay on “The Rise of African Churches,” my first initiation into the use of the word “exodus” in the antebellum northern free black context was to read the term in a denominational history by James H. Hood, the AME Zion Bishop, and former Union chaplain and Reconstruction politician in North Carolina. Written a century after the emergence of separate black Methodist societies in New York, Hood’s work referred to this cross-denominational development of the late eignteenth and early nineteenth century as a massive “exodus” of black people from the biracial Christian churches.17 What struck me, besides the historiographical debate about how to account for the origins of the independent churches and of their emerging complex public role both issues of which Glaude cogently addresses, was how political the contests and contestants were within this ecclesiastical “exodus.” When I wrote about it in 1984, the documents forced me to focus on church polity debates. In them African-American Christians were pressing for “access to ordination, representation in denominational governance, consultation about pastoral appointments and services, the ownership and use of church property and participation in congregational discipline.”18

     In chapter 3 Glaude captures the general sense of this development with the analogy to “the first effective stride toward freedom among African Americans—what I want to call the first covenantal convening of the nation.” I have no quarrel with that way of putting things or of the insightful expansion of the point in the quotation from David Wills about AME “church patriotism” (57–58). My only caveat is to reiterate the church-specific terms of this form of exodus politics and of the repetitive nature of the process of independence. It kept occurring here and then there and then somewhere else over a long period of time, and it always contained implicit if not explicit expressions of black religious nationality far beyond the boundaries of one denomination, the AME Church.

     What is at stake here perhaps is to clarify how the gallery incident in Philadelphia was “paradigmatic” for the emergence of independent churches (57). Even though Richard Allen writes in his autobiography after the offense by the white trustees as if there was to be no more relationship with white Methodists and particularly St. George’s Church, in fact, as Glaude mentions, by 1794 he has Bishop Francis Asbury to dedicate his Bethel building. He is involved with a white Methodist named Jupiter Gibson in biracial revivals at both Bethel and St. George’s in 1798. And all along he is maintaining his Bethel congregation in fiercely competitive encounters with the white elders at St. George’s leading finally to congregational independence and denominational formation in 1816. Even as the separation occurs, Allen and his colleagues remained decidedly Methodist in order to symbolize the integrity of their original choices which, in their view, were violated by the failure of the white church to honor those choices appropriately.19

     The AME Church, of course, was just one of four antebellum black Methodist denominational secessions occurring alongside African Union in 1813, AME Zion in 1822 and Colored Methodist Protestant by the 1840s. Prior to the Civil War there were also separate black Baptist congregations, associations and the American Baptist Missionary Convention, a caucus of African-American Episcopalian churches and priests and a Congregational-Presbyterian black proto-denomination which expressed the same struggles and successful embodiments of black religious nationality. Embracing the denominational paradigm, all of these black church organizations surrendered any easy notion that a single “union” church could express their religious impulses. Thus in their denominational diversity they became what E. Franklin Frazier recognized, and Glaude in other ways confirms, “a nation within a nation.” In so doing, the independent church movement solidified black Christianity not as an imitation of white Christian doctrine and discipline but as a distinct, hard won achievement dialectically related to European and indigenous traditions of American Christianity. The outcome set up the interpretive problem ever since about how to characterize what Carter Woodson called The Negro Church.20

     A second set of issues: Benjamin Quarles long ago, William and Jane Pease somewhat later and Peter Ripley more recently in the Black Abolitionist Papers project contend for the priority of a pre 1830s black abolitionist movement. It was shaped in the battle against colonization and by 1830 it was ready to influence emerging white activists who had to rethink their antislavery commitment and their tendency to unconscious forms of white racism when they came into contact with and were confronted by free blacks.21 In dialogue with Glaude, I would ask: how was the emerging paradigm of black nation with its countercultural energy crucial to the possibility of black and later white and biracial forms of abolitionism? Ripley affirms that the distinguishing feature of black abolitionism was its focus on practical work—reminiscent of Carol George’s argument that the form of antislavery activism emerging from the black church was “practical abolitionism.”22 Given Glaude’s evocation of a pragmatic understanding of race, shouldn’t the black abolitionist witness be a more strongly featured element of building up the black nation? Ripley reminds us of this sort of multifaceted work in the following passage:

A black temperance gathering could adjourn and immediately reconvene as an antislavery meeting with no change in tenor or participants. A black lecturer could use an antislavery tour to solicit donations for a fledging black newspaper, a church building fund, or African missions. A black vigilance committee, while aiding fugitive slaves, could also organize a petition campaign for black voting rights. The range and continuity of these activities redefined black abolitionism to include much of northern black life, institutions, and culture.23

     A third theme: Glaude alludes to but does not press the point about how the black state conventions from 1840 on became one arena for race-based politics as African Americans sought to restore the franchise in states-rights America where it had been lost (as in Pennsylvania) or expand it in the new states or to revise restrictions on it (as in New York and Ohio).24 Some of the constraint here, of course, is the time-line with which Glaude works, stopping with the national convention of 1843 with Garnet, but how might he and we think beyond the Troy convention? The ongoing struggle for voting rights and citizenship defined another form of free black involvement in racial politics, even though again most of the developments I am thinking about occurred after the mid 1840s. The first African-American political candidates and office-holders (Samuel Ringgold Ward, Frederick Douglass, William C. Nell, Robert Morris, John Mercer Langston) occurred within the Liberty, Radical Abolitionist, Free Soil and Republican parties.25 Such new opportunities, though hardly representative of the larger currents of party politics at the time, surely influenced black voters and white antislavery voters and candidates as well.26

     Or to push the time line into Reconstruction, how might we rethink out of Glaude’s model the free African-American encounter with the freedpeople as the black Christian and black national mission is extended into the postwar South? Since Reconstruction was a national and not merely sectional phenomenon, we would have to remember at the same time new rounds of political struggle in the North and West for the extension and protection of black civil and political rights. To remember Garnet’s powerful passage, the struggle was always everywhere. But how does Glaude’s formulation of Exodus and black nationality play out after the Civil War? To ask the question, of course, is to hope that Glaude will not abandon his historical interests for public philosophy or African-American religious thought but take us further on his journey in forthcoming work.


Bellah, Robert N. The Broken Covenant. New York: Seabury Press, 1975.

————. “Civil Religion in America.” Reprinted in Beyond Belief Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditional World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

————, et al. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Community In American Life. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Bercovitch, Sacvan. The American Jeremiad. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1978.

————. The Rites of Assent: Transformations in the Symbolic Constructions of America. New York: Routledge, 1993.

The Black Abolitionist Papers, vol. 3: The United States 1830–1846, ed. C. Peter Ripley. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, n.d.

Dixie, Quinton Hosford. Review of Glaude’s Exodus!. American Historical Review 106 (April 2001): 569.

Fabre, Genevieve. “African-American Commemorative Celebrations in the Nineteenth Century.” In History and Memory in African-American Culture, ed. Genevieve Fabre and Robert O’Meally, eds., 72–91. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

George, Carol V. R. “Widening the Circle: The Black Church and the Abolitionist Crusade, 1830–1860.” In Antislavery Reconsidered: New Perspectives on the Abolitionists, 75–95. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979.

Glaude, Eddie. Exodus!: Religion, Race, and Nation in Early Nineteenth-Century Black America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Gravely, Will B. “The Social, Political and Religious Significance of the Formation of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (1870).” Methodist History 18 (October 1979): 3–25.

————. “The Dialectic of Double-Consciousness in Black American Freedom Celebrations, 1808–1863.” Journal of Negro History 67 (winter 1982): 302–17.

————. “The Rise of African Churches: Re-examining the Contexts, 1786–1822,” Journal of Religious Thought 41 (1984): 58–73.

————. “ ‘. . . many of the poor Affricans are obedient to the faith’: Reassessing the Early African-American Presence in Methodism in the US, 1769–1809.” In Methodism and the Shaping of American Culture, ed. Nathan O. Hatch and John H. Wigger, 175–95. Nashville: Kingswood Books, 2001.

Harding, Vincent. The Other American Revolution. Los Angeles: Center for Afro-American Studies; Atlanta: Institute for the Black World, 1980.

————. There Is A River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981.

————. “Toward a Darkly Radiant Vision of America’s Truth.” In Community in America: The Challenge of Habits of the Heart, ed. Charles H. Reynolds and Ralph Norman. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.

Hizer, Trenton. Review of Glaude’s Exodus!. Journal of Church and State 43 (winter 2001): 159–60.

Hood, James H. One Hundred Years of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, or The Centennial of African Methodism. New York: AME Zion Book Concern, 1895.

Hopkins, Dwight N. Review of Glaude’s Exodus!. Journal of Religion 81 (July 2001): 467–68.

Horton, James Oliver, and Lois E. Horton. In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks 1700–1860. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Levine, Robert S. “Slavery, Race, and American Literary Genealogies.” Early American Literature 36, no. 1 (2001): 89–113. Review essay including Glaude’s Exodus!.

Long, Charles. Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of Religion. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986.

Martin, Sandy D. For God and Race: The Religious and Political Leadership of AMEZ Bishop James Walker Hood. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.

Pease, Jane H., and William H. Pease. They Who Would Be Free: Blacks’ Search for Freedom, 1830–1861. New York: Athenaeum, 1974.

Peterson, Carla L., ed. “Doers of the Word” African-American Women Speakers and Writers in the North (1830–1880). New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1995.

Proceedings of the Black State Conventions 1840–1865, ed. Philip S. Foner and George E. Walker. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980.

Quarles, Benjamin. Black Abolitionists. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.

Raboteau. Albert J. “African-Americans, Exodus, and the American Israel.” Reprinted in A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995.

Strong, Douglas M. Perfectionist Politics: Abolition and the Religious Tensions of American Democracy. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1999.

Tise, Larry. Proslavery: A History of the Defense of Slavery in America, 1701–1840. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1987.

Walzer, Michael. Exodus and Revolution. New York: Basic Books, 1985.

Werner, John M. Reaping the Bloody Harvest. Race Riots in the United States during the Age of Jackson 1824–1849. New York: Garland, 1986.


     1. The possible link was with Gammon Theological Seminary whose first president was W. P. Thirkield, Haven’s son-in-law and later the last white president, I believe, of Howard University. [return to text]

     2. Like other graduate schools in religion of that era, Duke’s curriculum in the American Christianity Ph.D. program in which I was enrolled (with the first African American graduate students to be admitted to that program) was very white, and Protestant, and mostly male in its conceptions of religious trajectories in US history. In this time before C. Eric Lincoln came to Duke, I did not have courses which discussed African-American religion, even though I did write and later publish a paper on the emergence of the Colored (now Christian) Methodist Episcopal Church for a course on the Civil War and Reconstruction in Duke’s History Department [ “The Social, Political and Religious Significance of the Formation of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (1870),” Methodist History 18 (October 1979): 3–25]. [return to text]

     3. Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., Exodus!: Religion, Race, and Nation in Early Nineteenth-Century Black America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). [return to text]

     4. I am not aware of a printed version of this talk, though there was an audio-tape of it available from the AAR which I bought and transcribed in order to study. Harding’s later book, The Other American Revolution (Los Angeles: Center for Afro-American Studies; Atlanta: Institute for the Black World, 1980), now out of print, presented an expansion of some elements of the AAR talk. My mention of gender awareness is an issue Dwight Hopkins’ review of Exodus! has raised in Journal of Religion 81 (July 2001): 467–68. Twice Glaude quotes Maria Stewart, once echoing the theme of exodus in Egypt and the other about black women and the “politics of respectability” (9–10, 121–22). Otherwise gendered concerns are not front and center in this study. [return to text]

     5. Vincent Harding, There Is A River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981). [return to text]

     6. Robert N. Bellah, “Civil Religion in America,” reprinted in Beyond Belief Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditional World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), and The Broken Covenant (New York: Seabury Press, 1975). [return to text]

     7. Benjamin Quarles, Black Abolitionists (London: Oxford University Press, 1969). [return to text]

     8. “The Dialectic of Double-Consciousness in Black American Freedom Celebrations, 1808–1863,” Journal of Negro History 67
(Winter 1982): 302–17. [return to text]

     9. Robert N. Bellah et al., Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Community In American Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985); Vincent Harding, “Toward a Darkly Radiant Vision of America’s Truth,” in Community in America: The Challenge of Habits of the Heart, ed. Charles H. Reynolds and Ralph Norman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988). [return to text]

     10. Robert S. Levine, “Slavery, Race, and American Literary Genealogies,” Early American Literature 36, no. 1 (2001): 89–113 (review essay including Glaude’s Exodus! [return to text]

     11. Albert J. Raboteau, “African-Americans, Exodus, and the American Israel,” reprinted in A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995). [return to text]

     12. Charles H. Long, Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), 147. [return to text]

     13. “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praise of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy; but now have obtained mercy” (34). [return to text]

     14. The chronological limitations with which Glaude works tend the diminish the significance of the latter holiday with its larger Atlantic world commemoration. There were West India celebrations in Canada, London, and Liberia, and by 1859, it was observed in thirteen states in fifty-seven different locations. See Genevieve Fabre, “African-American Commemorative Celebrations in the Nineteenth Century,” in History and Memory In African-American Culture, ed. Genevieve Fabre and Robert O’Meally (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 72–91. [return to text]

     15. See John M. Werner, Reaping the Bloody Harvest: Race Riots in the United States during the Age of Jackson 1824–1849 (New York: Garland, 1986). [return to text]

     16. Glaude writes: “For Whipper, race language acquired its meaning only within the context of American racism, so any use of it merely reinforced its hold of people’s moral and social imaginations” (141). [return to text]

     17. James H. Hood, One Hundred Years of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, or The Centennial of African Methodism (New York: AME Zion Book Concern, 1895), 5; Sandy D. Martin, For God and Race: The Religious and Political Leadership of AMEZ Bishop James Walker Hood (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999). [return to text]

     18. Will B. Gravely, “The Rise of African Churches: Re-Examining the Contexts, 1786–1822,” Journal of Religious Thought 41 (1984): 58–73, 68. The contests over property use and the importance of owning their own church property among the independent churches occurred in the contexts of the enactment of incorporation laws in the various states following the disestablishment of religion from the 1780s on. The powers vested in trustees in these black congregations solidified the ownership. Black church struggles over trusteeism overlapped other similar contests in white Protestant and Catholic cases during the same period. [return to text]

     19. Will B. Gravely, “ ‘. . . many of the poor Affricans are obedient to the faith’: Reassessing the Early African-American Presence in Methodism in the US, 1769–1809,” in Methodism and the Shaping of American Culture, ed. Nathan O. Hatch and John H. Wigger (Nashville: Kingswood Books, 2001), 175–95. [return to text]

     20. One example suffices. In his classic historical and sociological mid-twentieth-century study, Protestant, Catholic, Jew (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1955), Will Herberg confessed his inability to classify the black churches. His concern was nonetheless with religion and nation as he accounted for how European immigrant forms of the three biblical faiths became Americanized by the mid-twentieth century and transformed into “the religion of the American way of life.” [return to text]

     21. The Black Abolitionist Papers, vol. 3: The United States 1830–1846, ed. C. Peter Ripley et al. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, n.d.), 7–8. “This broadened definition of black abolitionism governed relations between black and white abolitionists . . . . The enormous amount of time and energy that blacks spent trying to convert fellow abolitionists and the northern public to their larger goals meant that black abolitionism was as influenced as much by its struggles with whites in the free states as with slaveholders in the South” (ibid., 68). [return to text]

     22. Black Abolitionist Papers, 3:24; Carol V. R. George, “Widening the Circle: The Black Church and the Abolitionist Crusade, 1830–1860,” in Antislavery Reconsidered: New Perspectives on the Abolitionists (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1979), 75–95. [return to text]

     23. Black Abolitionist Papers, 3:25. [return to text]

     24. For a recent summary and table 7.1 Black Rights to Vote by State (1830 and 1860), see James Oliver Horton and Lois E. Horton, In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks 1700–1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 167ff. [return to text]

     25. Black Abolitionist Papers, 3:43–47. [return to text]

     26. I have in mind some of the events in New York state discussed in Douglas M. Strong, Perfectionist Politics: Abolition and the Religious Tensions of American Democracy (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1999). Ward ran for the New York state assembly in 1848 and as national vice president in 1850. Douglass was a candidate for secretary of State in New York five years later. Nell was nominated for the Massachusetts legislature and Morris sought to become mayor of Boston. Langston was elected a town clerk in Ohio. [return to text]

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