Department

History

Degree

Master of Arts (MA)

Chair

Douglas Mann

Primary Subject Area

History, General; History, Latin American; History, United States; History, Church; History, Black; Religion, General; Religion, History of; Religion, Clergy; Black Studies

Keywords

African, Baptist, Christianity, Evangelical, George Liele, George Whitefield

Disciplines

Christianity | History | History of Christianity | History of Religion | Latin American History | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Religion | United States History

Abstract

The Ethiopian Baptists in the eighteenth century Atlantic were not actually Ethiopians at all, but people of West African descent, traded as slaves to the southern lowcountry and Jamaica. Their identification with Ethiopia did not come from their geographic ancestry, but from a Christian heritage that they became a part of when they accepted the salvation of Jesus Christ. The evolution of this evangelical Afro-Baptist movement occurred in three stages. First, white evangelicals, like George Whitefield, carried Christianity to African American populations in South Carolina during the Great Awakening. Second, African American leaders, such as George Liele, rose up as slave and free black Baptist preachers to evangelize colored communities in the Georgia and South Carolina lowcountry prior to and during the American Revolution. Third, George Liele and other black Baptist ministers left the lowcountry for Jamaica, where they replicated proselytization methods and religious practices from both white evangelicals and southern African American Baptists. In each stage, appeasing whites, preaching methods, Baptist rituals, education, and creating a community of believers all proved integral in evangelicalism's transatlantic development in colored communities. By the end of the eighteenth century, colored Baptist ministers in South Carolina, Georgia, and Jamaica, under the guidance of former slave and African American missionary to Jamaica, George Liele, all referred to themselves as Ethiopian Baptists, a collective identification that bound them together in an Atlantic world evangelical religious movement.