Slavery and Religion on Martin R. Delany’s Blake, or the Huts of America

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The need for worshipping abstract, “almighty” entities is common to the majority of cultures, even if in very different ways. Religion was - and still is – one of the crucial points in the construction of any society and it wasn’t any different in helping the construction of the slaveholding society in America. In the seventeenth century, when the British implemented the slaveholding culture in America, thousands of slaves were brought from African countries in order to facilitate the work of the settlers. With them, they brought a series of customs, including their religious practices. Those rituals were completely different from the ones of Christian slaveholders, like shamanism and other tribal cults. Soon, both African cults and Christianity were mixed together giving rise to new cults, like voodoo for example. By the eighteenth century, slaves were being forced to convert to the slaveholder’s religion, which caused the loss of many tribal practices in the African-American slave community. In 1807, the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves forbid the importation of slaves from African countries. The slaveholding system had become self-sufficient and this dictated the end of many tribal practices among black slaves. Blake, by Martin R. Delany, takes place in the antebellum period in America. One may realize that most of the slaves depicted in the novel are now converted to Christianity, their masters’ religion. The problem here is that this conversion is nothing less than a subversive way to control the group of slaves in the Franks plantation. Master Frank uses religion to pour fear and obedience in his slaves’ minds. In Traore Moussa’s essay, the author uses one of Karl Marx’s statements which defines religion: religion is “opium to the people” (Moussa 15). In Delany’s novel, there are two slaves which are excellent examples of the meaning of Marx’s words –
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