Chapter 4 Black People, White God: Moravianism and the “Cultural Purification” of the Afro-Caribbean in Antigua and Tobago

In: Moravian Americans and their Neighbors, 1772-1822
Winelle Kirton-Roberts
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3.1 million Africans were forcibly shipped to the British owned colonies in the Caribbean between 1662-1807 and enslaved by plantation owners. For close to 100 years, the enslaved Africans practiced their religious and cultural expressions that survived the Middle Passage, without religious judgment. While Christianity was well-established in the Caribbean by the eighteenth century, the Moravians were the first missionaries to have believed that the African “soul” was worthy of conversion. The evangelical Protestant work of the Moravians began in Antigua, an island colonized only by the British, in 1756. Thirty years later, in 1786, the Moravian mission was started in Tobago, an island that changed colonial hands thirty-three times among the Spanish, Dutch, Latvian, French and British.

The success of Moravian evangelization in the Caribbean was measured by the de-Africanizing of the Afro-Caribbean converts. However, Black people in the Caribbean have perpetually struggled to embrace an identity that reconciled the Christian faith of the European White God with their African ancestral roots. Arguably, the Moravian in Tobago has more readily embraced and incorporated more African-ness in their Christian faith and practice than the Moravian in Antigua.

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