• Bernadette J. Brooten
Part of the Black Religion/Womanist Thought/Social Justice book series


This book invites and enables readers to engage with the history of slavery over centuries and across continents—in particular, with its effects on enslaved women and girls and past religious complicity in it.2 I hope that this new way of viewing slavery will motivate readers to create new strategies for overcoming the vestiges of slavery that continue to shape our daily lives in ways that are often difficult to see. Consider the following modern-day experiences:

“As a descendant of African slave women,” writes Amina Wadud, a leading scholar of Islam who usually wears the Muslim headscarf in public, “I have carried the awareness that my ancestors were not given any choice to determine how much of their bodies would be exposed at the auction block or in their living conditions. So, I chose intentionally to cover my body as a means of reflecting my historical identity, personal dignity, and sexual integrity.3


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  1. 1.
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    Supporters include the NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Nation of Islam, and National Baptist Convention. Several largely white religious denominations have also moved toward support for reparations. In 2001, the United Church of Christ General Synod and the Disciples of Christ General Assembly passed a joint resolution on reparations for slavery, which calls upon congregations, regions, agencies, and national ministries “to join in active study and education on issues dealing with reparations for slavery.” The United Church of Christ version amended the resolution to distinguish between reparations and restitution, stating that reparations “can never be singularly reducible to monetary terms.” See “The Twenty-Third General Synod Adopts the Resolution ‘A Call for Study on Reparations for Slavery,’” United Church of Christ, (accessed October 4, 2009). In 2004, “[d]elegates to the top legislative assembly of the United Methodist Church voted to support a study of reparations for African Americans and to petition the vice president and House of Representatives to support the passage and signing of House Resolution 40.” See Linda Green, “United Methodist Church Supports Reparations for African Americans,” May 7, 2004, United Methodist News Service, (accessed October 4, 2009). Also in 2004, the Presbyterian Church (USA) “adopted the report of the Task Force to Study Reparations,” which states: “The point is not to indict any particular group of people for such atrocities. Rather, as members of the same body, the body of Christ, we must all bear equal responsibility for the sins of our past. The Scriptures call us to bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2, NRSV). We do so first, by remembering what we have done and failed to do; second, by doing everything in our power to restore the human dignity and material loss of our sisters and brothers; third, by repairing the moral and spiritual breach that was formed between the offended and the offenders; and fourth, by sincerely attempting to reconcile all differences that are directly related to our behaviors of the past.” See Report of the Task Force to Study Reparations, (accessed October 4, 2009). In 2006, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) passed a resolution acknowledging its complicity in slavery and in segregation and the economic benefits it derived from slavery, and it urged its members to take measures to be “‘the repairer of the breach’ (Isaiah 58:12), both materially and relationally.” See “Study Economic Benefits Derived from Slavery,” Archives of the Episcopal Church, resolution number 2006-A123, (accessed October 4, 2009). The remarkable documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, directed by Katrina Browne (Ebb Pod Productions, 2008), has helped the Episcopal and other churches in these efforts. Browne, a descendant of the largest slave-trading family in the United States, a family that was heavily involved in the Episcopal Church, retraced the triangle trade of her ancestors, from Rhode Island to Ghana to Cuba and then back to the United States, seeking ways to repair the damage to today’s descendants of those enslaved by her ancestors. Visit (accessed October 4, 2009).Google Scholar
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© Bernadette J. Brooten 2010

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  • Bernadette J. Brooten

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