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The Baptism of Early Virginia

Hardback
, 240 pages

1 halftone, 1 line drawing

ISBN:
9781421407005
August 2012
$55.00

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The Baptism of Early Virginia

How Christianity Created Race

In The Baptism of Early Virginia, Rebecca Anne Goetz examines the construction of race through the religious beliefs and practices of English Virginians. She finds the seventeenth century a critical time in the development and articulation of racial ideologies—ultimately in the idea of "hereditary heathenism," the notion that Africans and Indians were incapable of genuine Christian conversion. In Virginia in particular, English settlers initially believed that native people would quickly become Christian and would form a vibrant partnership with English people. After vicious Anglo-Indian violence dashed those hopes, English Virginians used Christian rituals like marriage and baptism to exclude first Indians and then Africans from the privileges enjoyed by English Christians—including freedom.

Resistance to hereditary heathenism was not uncommon, however. Enslaved people and many Anglican ministers fought against planters’ racial ideologies, setting the stage for Christian abolitionism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Using court records, letters, and pamphlets, Goetz suggests new ways of approaching and understanding the deeply entwined relationship between Christianity and race in early America.

Rebecca Anne Goetz is an assistant professor of history at Rice University.

"A major contribution to this rich field of historical inquiry."

"Goetz postis her thesis in a history of England and Colonial Virginia, providing necessary context while educating readers in the general narrative of English and Virginia history."

"Goetz has done a impressive job bringing religion to thecenter of the historiography on race, and her study is a must-readfor all scholars interested in the development of race and the role of Protestantism in the Atlantic world."

"In a compact 173 pages, Goetz links race and religion in colonial Virginia in ways that few other scholars have even attempted."

"This is impressive scholarship grounded in letters, pamphlets, court records, colonial statutes, and a wide array of additional archival and secondary sources... It is a book that will find ready readership in graduate seminars, seminaries, and undergraduate classrooms."

"Professor Goetz... is to be warmly applauded for having produced a work of such methodological scope and intellectual sophistication, a most persuasive work that ranks as a major contribution to the field."

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