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The Baptism of Early Virginia

How Christianity Created Race

Rebecca Anne Goetz

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Christianity's role in furthering racism in early America.

In The Baptism of Early Virginia, Rebecca Anne Goetz examines the construction of race through the religious beliefs and practices of English Virginians. She finds the seventeenth century a critical time in the development and articulation of racial ideologies—ultimately in the idea of "hereditary heathenism," the notion that Africans and Indians were incapable of genuine Christian conversion. In Virginia in particular, English settlers initially believed that native people would quickly become Christian and would form a vibrant…

Christianity's role in furthering racism in early America.

In The Baptism of Early Virginia, Rebecca Anne Goetz examines the construction of race through the religious beliefs and practices of English Virginians. She finds the seventeenth century a critical time in the development and articulation of racial ideologies—ultimately in the idea of "hereditary heathenism," the notion that Africans and Indians were incapable of genuine Christian conversion. In Virginia in particular, English settlers initially believed that native people would quickly become Christian and would form a vibrant partnership with English people. After vicious Anglo-Indian violence dashed those hopes, English Virginians used Christian rituals like marriage and baptism to exclude first Indians and then Africans from the privileges enjoyed by English Christians—including freedom.

Resistance to hereditary heathenism was not uncommon, however. Enslaved people and many Anglican ministers fought against planters’ racial ideologies, setting the stage for Christian abolitionism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Using court records, letters, and pamphlets, Goetz suggests new ways of approaching and understanding the deeply entwined relationship between Christianity and race in early America.

Reviews

Reviews

Goetz has done an impressive job bringing religion to the center of the historiography on race, and her study is a must-read for all scholars interested in the development of race and the role of Protestantism in the Atlantic world.

In a compact 173 pages, Goetz links race and religion in colonial Virginia in ways that few other scholars have even attempted.

This is impressive scholarship grounded in letters, pamphlets, court records, colonial statutes, and a wide array of additional archival and secondary sources... It is a book that will find ready readership in graduate seminars, seminaries, and undergraduate classrooms.

Professor Goetz... is to be warmly applauded for having produced a work of such methodological scope and intellectual sophistication, a most persuasive work that ranks as a major contribution to the field.

Goetz posits her thesis in a history of England and Colonial Virginia, providing necessary context while educating readers in the general narrative of English and Virginia history.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
240
ISBN
9781421419817
Illustration Description
1 halftone, 1 line drawing
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
A Note on Terminology
Introduction
1. English Christians among the Blackest Nations
2. The Rise and Fall of the Anglo-Indian Christian Commonwealth
3. Faith in the Blood
4. Baptism and the

Acknowledgments
A Note on Terminology
Introduction
1. English Christians among the Blackest Nations
2. The Rise and Fall of the Anglo-Indian Christian Commonwealth
3. Faith in the Blood
4. Baptism and the Birth of Race
5. Becoming Christian, Becoming White
6. The Children of Israel
Epilogue
Notes
Essay on Sources
Index

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