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Rebecca's Revival: Creating Black Christianity in the Atlantic World,
Synopses & Reviews
Rebecca's Revival is the remarkable story of a Caribbean woman--a slave turned evangelist--who helped inspire the rise of black Christianity in the Atlantic world. All but unknown today, Rebecca Protten left an enduring influence on African-American religion and society. Born in 1718, Protten had a childhood conversion experience, gained her freedom from bondage, and joined a group of German proselytizers from the Moravian Church. She embarked on an itinerant mission, preaching to hundreds of the enslaved Africans of St. Thomas, a Danish sugar colony in the West Indies. Laboring in obscurity and weathering persecution from hostile planters, Protten and other black preachers created the earliest African Protestant congregation in the Americas.
Protten's eventful life--the recruiting of converts, an interracial marriage, a trial on charges of blasphemy and inciting of slaves, travels to Germany and West Africa--placed her on the cusp of an emerging international Afro-Atlantic evangelicalism. Her career provides a unique lens on this prophetic movement that would soon sweep through the slave quarters of the Caribbean and North America, radically transforming African-American culture.
Jon Sensbach has pieced together this forgotten life of a black visionary from German, Danish, and Dutch records, including letters in Protten's own hand, to create an astounding tale of one woman's freedom amidst the slave trade. Protten's life, with its evangelical efforts on three continents, reveals the dynamic relations of the Atlantic world and affords great insight into the ways black Christianity developed in the New World.
"Sensbach, a professor of history at the University of Florida, offers a fascinating study of a woman and a religious revival in the 18th century. His heroine is Rebecca Protten, a freed slave living and working in the Dutch colony of St. Thomas. Born around 1718, Rebecca was freed by her master, for reasons the historical sources do not reveal, sometime after 1730. Always religiously inclined, her commitment to Moravian Christianity blossomed under the tutelage of Friedrich Martin, a German missionary who came to St. Thomas in 1736. Within two years, Rebecca's piety and religious education had impressed Martin so much that he commissioned her as a fellow evangelist. Sensbach chronicles Rebecca's remarkable life, which included two marriages (one interracial), a grueling arrest and lots of travel, including to Europe and Africa. During an age when thousands of Africans were transported as slaves to the Americas, Sensbach notes that Rebecca 'lived as a kind of reverse cultural bridge.' Scholars will appreciate Sensbach's ability to successfully translate what is often understood as an 'American' story into the whole Atlantic world. This book is a rare gem, reminiscent of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's A Midwife's Tale; Sensbach's detective work in piecing together spare Dutch and German sources to recreate Rebecca's life is astonishing. His prose is fluid and graceful, his mind is sharp and the story he tells is riveting. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Jon F. Sensbach is Associate Professor of History, University of Florida.
Table of Contents
1. A Baptism of Blood
Epilogue: Rebecca's Shadow
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