John Thornton :

The Transportation of African Christianity to America:
The Eighteenth Century

John Thornton

This paper proposes that the Kingdom of Kongo developed during the sixteenth century a strongly held Christian identity which sustained itself through both the abandonment by European priests and the civil wars. Whatever the state of the kingdom's politics, Kongolese who found themselves enslaved carried a sense of Kongo identity with them that included both membership in the kingdom (even if it was at war with itself most of the time) and a special pride in being Christian and used it to build a neo-Kongo community throughout the Americas, whose actual shape and durability in the inhospitable land of slavery depended on local specifics. This neo-Kongo identity in America, a product of the slave trade, is the project to which this paper proposes to investigate. Its specifically syncretic form of Christianity may provide a key link between African forms of religiosity and those of the Europeans. Thus Angolans specifically played an extraordinary role well beyond their total numbers in shaping this aspect of future African American life.