Spiritual Memories of Slaves Depict Black Christianity Before the Civil War

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Spiritual memories of slaves in their own words.

She’d Be A-Prayin’

My mother, all de time she’d be prayin’ to de Lord. She’d take us chillun to de woods to pick up firewood, and we’d turn around to see her down on her knees behind a stump, a-prayin’. We’d see her wipin’ her eyes wid de corner of her apron—first one eye, den de other—as we come along back. Den, back in de house, down on her knees, she’d be a-prayin’.

—Rebecca Grant

Good Bye, Child

While traveling in Delaware, a child of a slave was sold: As the colored woman was ordered to take it away, I heard Fannie Woods cry, “O God, I would rather hear the clods fall on the coffin lid of my child than to hear its cries because it is taken away from me.” She said, “Good bye, Child.”

We were ordered to move on, and could hear the crying of the child in the distance as it was borne away by the other woman, and I could hear the deep sobs of a broken hearted mother. We could hear the groans of many as they prayed for God to have mercy upon us and give us grace to endure the hard trials through which we must pass.

—Fannie Woods

Welcoming the Baby

Whenever white folks had a baby born, den all de old niggers had to come th’ough the room, and the master would be over ‘hind the bed, and he’d say, “Here’s a new little mistress or master you got to work for.” You had to say, “Yessuh, Master,” and bow real low, or the overseer would crack you.

—Harriet Robinson

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SOURCE: Christianity Today