In complete contrast to Boles, and even to Genovese, Sterling Stuckey assigns religion a central role in the essential and virtually exclusive “Africanity” of slave culture. He expresses reasonable doubts about the proportion of slaves to ever actually took part in Christian worship, but commits himself to the extraordinary statement that “the great bulk of the slaves were scarcely touched by Christianity.” Elsewhere however, he takes a somewhat less rigid view and speaks of “the Africanization of Christianity,” or a “Christianity shot through with African values.” These would seem to be steps along the road to recognition of a genuinely African-American religion in which Christian and African influences interacted with each other or existed side by side. Indeed, he has some intriguing suggestions to offer about how the two traditions interrelate in practice, although he always insists on the primary of the African influence. In a typical passage, he discusses a ceremony common to Christianity and many West African religions; water immersion or baptism. He concludes that, as in most ostensibly, Christian ceremonies on slave plantations:

Christianity provided a protective exterior beneath which more complex, less familiar (to outsiders) religious principles and practices were operative. The features of Christianity peculiar to slaves were often manifestations of deeper African religious concerns, products of a religious outlook towards which the master class might otherwise be hostile. By operating under cover of Christianity, vital aspects of Africanity, which were considered eccentric involvement, sound and symbolism, could more easily be practiced openly. Slaves therefore had readily available the prospect of practicing, without being scored, essential features of African faith together with those of the new faith.

Clearly, not all the differences between the recent historians of Slave religion are reconcilable, but such an analysis, and especially its last entice, could form the basis of a widely shared understanding of the interaction of two religious traditions, if only one could dispense with the instance that the influence of one must always be subordinate to the influence of the other.
If religion supplied the inspiration, the family provided the environment in which slaves sought to create their own domain. Until quite recently, the idea that the slave family was a bastion of the slaves’ own life-style would have seemed palpably absurd. The overwhelming power of the master, the act of any legal status for slave marriage, the denial to the father of much of the normal parental role, the constant disruption of family life by slave sales, and the sexual exploitation of slave women by white men were generally assumed to have wrecked the chances of survival of anything remotely recognizable as family life. A new and very different picture has emerged from the work of Herbet Gutman, and from the vigorous response to Gutman’s work.

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