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Slave Resistance

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In New England, people of color employed their Christian faith as a means of resistance against enslavement, racial discrimination, and the imposition of church doctrines they found objectionable. This resistance was evident in various instances, such as the powerful exhortation delivered by an enslaved man during a dinner party in Boston in 1740. Tasked with impersonating the Reverend George Whitfield, he instead used the opportunity to confront his master and the guests, asserting his allegiance to Jesus Christ and condemning his master's immoral behavior.





Similarly, the case of Ann, an enslaved woman referred to as "Sister Ann" by church leaders, illustrates resistance through refusal to attend church services due to disagreement with the teachings on grace and assurance. Despite attempts by church members to persuade her otherwise, Ann remained steadfast in her beliefs, highlighting her agency and autonomy in matters of faith. 


Another example was Maria, a Black woman, who set fire to the homes of two members of the First Church in Roxbury, resulting in injuries and death. She was found guilty and sentenced to death by burning, becoming the first woman to suffer such a fate in the thirteen mainland colonies. Two other enslaved individuals, Chefelia and Coffee, were implicated but not indicted. Maria's case sheds light on the disproportionate punishment faced by Black women convicted of crimes compared to their white counterparts throughout history. Despite the lack of comprehensive information about Maria's life and motives, her story underscores the historical marginalization and erasure of Black women's experiences. Historian Kali Nicole Gross emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and understanding this history to work toward justice and equality. The photos below show a map, specifically where Maria was murdered.


New England also resisted racial oppression

by establishing their own churches, despite

facing constant conflict and interference from English settlers. These indigenous-led churches served as autonomous spaces where Native communities could preserve their spiritual traditions, exercise autonomy, and strengthen intertribal connections, despite attempts to assimilate them into English culture. Enslaved individuals at the First Church in Roxbury sometimes resorted to more secular forms of resistance, such as running away. The case of Sharper, a Black man who absconded from his enslaver in 1749, exemplifies the risks involved in such acts of defiance, as white settlers were legally obligated to recapture runaway slaves. In a particularly extreme act of resistance, a Black woman named Maria set fire to the homes of two church members and her enslaver, resulting in injuries and death. Maria's subsequent sentencing to death by burning underscores the severe consequences faced by those who dared to resist, particularly people of color in a society where racial chattel slavery was widely accepted and enforced. These examples highlight the multifaceted nature of resistance among people of color in colonial New England, encompassing spiritual, social, and physical forms of defiance against the oppressive structures of enslavement and racial discrimination.

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