African Americanist Winfried Herget asserts that antebellum African Americans empowered themselves through conversion narratives, a genre whose conventions allowed writers to express their moments of spiritual conversion and perhaps gain limited control over their lives by preserving them in text. While Herget limits his study to a micro-phenomenon‒the personal experiences of a few women writers ‒I argue that the conversion experience characterized a broader epistemology for African Americans to redefine the chaos of their existence in the New World. In addition, their faith practices, a blending of old and new traditions, allowed them to develop and articulate their collective beliefs into a version of Christianity that fit their specific needs. Christian conversion and individual faith practices empowered many members of the antebellum African American community, reaffirming self-identity and engendering a seed of revolution in their theology whose wake continues today.
Religious Communities, Religious Socialization, Empowerment, Conversion Narratives, Worship
Religious Community and Socialization
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session
PhD Student, Comparative Studies, Florida Atlantic University, United States
I am a fourth year PhD student at Florida Atlantic Univeristy in Boca Raton, Florida. I am in the Comparative Studies Program pursung an interdisciplinary degree with a research focus on nineteenth century American literature and culture. My specific area of interest is in the development of African American theology and the role Christianity played in self-empowerment of individual members as well as in the formation of a collective African American community. My research brings together the discipines of literature, sociology, psychology, neuroscience, religious studies, linguistics, and rhetoric.