Denison Journal of Religion


“The Construction of the African Slave Identity: Defying Hegemony through Syncretic Religious Practices” by Caleigh Dwyer, ’19. Dwyer examines the extent to which traditional African culture and the Protestantism with which new slaves were confronted helped them resist the hegemonic structure of American slavery. She argues that the Protestant church acted as a tool, or framework, for collective organization and a restructuring of African identity. African slaves, then, found agency and an opportunity for self-definition through “Africanizing” the Protestant church after white slavers fragmented and suppressed African culture. However, African slave culture made its mark on the Protestant church just as American capitalist culture shaped slave churches, and continues to play a role in black churches to this day. Dwyer concludes that the development of African slave religion viewed in light of more modern civil rights agitation and black liberation movements necessitates a reframing of the historical narrative of African slave culture, with resistance, resilience, and destabilization of white hegemony as key components.


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