By Christine E. Sears (auth.)

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Additional info for American Slaves and African Masters: Algiers and the Western Sahara, 1776–1820

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That is, historians familiar with US history use US slavery as a benchmark against which to determine if a system is slavery or not. ” Clearly, the key is the criteria used to define slavery. Yet slavery, as an institution embedded in particular cultures, is a notoriously tricky term to pin down, particularly in a way that covers all slaveries in all places at all times. Considering how scholars have defined slavery can further illuminate how difficult a task this is. Most Africanists agreed that social marginality rather than ownership of persons made slaves.

Their commitment to religious expression could be ascribed to that time and place. However, Americans made similar mentions of God and personal religious practices later. During the War of 1812, some American prisoners of war regularly attended worship services performed by fellow captive preachers. Americans enslaved after wrecking on Africa’s west coast laced their narratives with prayers in the early nineteenth century. 32 This religious movement affected how Americans thought about their religious lives, influencing prisoners of war and Saharan captives to discuss openly and habitually their religious thoughts.

By the late eighteenth century, these visits served fewer European slaves if only because none occupied the prisons during the day. 37 Even if they lacked formal structures or leadership, Protestant slaves had the freedom to make religion a central component of their experience. However, no enslaved Americans recounted attending Catholic services, just as they did not detail attending Protestant services, meetings with ministers or with fellow believers of any denominations. If any Protestant “Far Distant from Our Country” 39 ministers were among the enslaved, Americans did not mention it, nor did they say if fellow slaves preached to them or if they prayed together.

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