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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Study Guide Chapter 13, The Church and Slavery Summary & Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 43 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.
This section contains 426 words
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After the scare resulting from Nat Turner's insurrection, the slaveholders in the area decide that the slaves would benefit from some religious training (to discourage them from murdering their masters). The churches within the community begin to offer special services for colored people in the afternoons when the white people are not at church.

The reader learns of a sanctimonious pastor named Mr. Pike, who inculcates the slaves with the belief that God wants them to obey their masters faithfully, and that resistance to one's master is depravity in the eyes of God that is punishable by the fires of hell.

One also learns of a second pastor. This pastor comes into town to helm the Episcopal church after his predecessor, a man popular among slaveholders leaves to take on a more lucrative assignment. This pastor takes his mission of ministering to slaves and other oppressed colored people very seriously, perhaps more seriously than his ministry to the white people in his congregation. He also respects the humanity of his black congregation and preaches that white people and black people are equal in the eyes of God. This makes him extremely popular with the black members of the community, and unpopular among slaveholders.

A common theme throughout this chapter is the problematic disconnect between the Christian message being instilled upon the slaves, and the extremely unchristian nature of the behavior of the slaveholders and of the institution of slavery itself. Linda observes that, after joining the Episcopal church, Dr. Flint makes no apparent attempt to "renounce the devil and all his works" or even to alter his behavior in any way. When Linda points this out to him, he admits that he merely joined the church in the interest of social respectability.

In one of the more touching anecdotes of the novel, an older slave man commonly called "Uncle Fred", who joins the Baptist Church, earnestly desires to learn to read so that he can read the Bible. Linda agrees to teach him, although both she and Uncle Fred are aware that they will both suffer severe consequences if they are caught. Although Linda finds his progress in learning to read to be remarkably rapid, Uncle Fred cannot be made to see it that way. He continually apologizes for his slowness, a defect he accredits to his perceived inferiority of his own race. As much as Linda tries to encourage him, he appears to have these thoughts of inferiority thoroughly ingrained in him.

This section contains 426 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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