The ban on the importation of slaves into the United States became official on January 1, 1808, as set forth in the Constitution twenty years before. Absalom Jones celebrated this moment by delivering a sermon at St. Thomas’s Church in Philadelphia, which he had founded fourteen years earlier. He ultimately gives strong praise to God, while acknowledging the roles of abolitionists and the legislatures of the United States and the United Kingdom for their efforts in banning the trade. Jones abhorred that the practice of slavery continued, but saw a potential positive in regards to the spread of Christianity. Ultimately, what’s revealing in Jones’ sermon is his stressing of the importance for slaves to assimilate into the dominant culture of the time, mainly through the use of Christianity.
Jones’ sermon largely goes along two paths; he alternately expresses sentiments of gratitude to many parties, and implores those listening and current slaves to live in a Christian manner. An interesting point of contention is that, although Jones makes it clear that he despises the practice of slavery, he does not directly rebuke those who practice it, or those who participated in the slave trade. In fact, he says, “Let us conduct ourselves in a manner as to furnish no cause of regret to the deliverers of our nation, for their kindness to us.” Jones seemingly states that Africans should be thankful for their deliverance to the United States, disregarding the circumstances upon which it happened. This mirrors an opinion by Phyllis Wheatley, who like Jones, was a free African in a Northern city. In Chapter Four of African Americans: A Concise History, it is said that although she lamented the sorrow her capture had caused her parents, she was grateful to have been brought to America and to become a Christian (Hines, Hines & Harrold 85). The opinions of these two free Africans bring forth the question of the effect that freedom had on the attitudes of Africans towards the...
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