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Slavery, Oppression, and Prejudice: Ancient Roots and Modern Implications

Slavery, Oppression & Prejudice

Pruit Memorial Symposium
Thursday, September 30—Saturday, October 2, 2004

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Program Description

Slavery, Oppression, and Prejudice: Ancient Roots and Modern Implications will assemble an interdisciplinary group of scholars for an international conference addressing the nature, origins, and implications of the practice of slavery from antiquity through modernity, with special attention to the wide-ranging moral and theological responses the phenomenon has prompted among Christians.

Slavery—as a means of (dis)ordering economic, political, and social life, and as an instrument of oppression, racism, and prejudice toward the "other"—has been a part of the culture within which the church found itself from the beginning. Through its history, Western Christianity has addressed the subject any way but univocally, sometimes acknowledging the practice without complaint, sometimes rationalizing it on the basis of specious biblical interpretation, and sometimes actively decrying its dehumanizing, morally, and socially destructive consequences. Curiously, the early church took up the ubiquitous practice of slavery and turned it into a metaphor descriptive of both the unredeemed life held hostage to sin and the redeemed life devoted to Christ. In so doing, it theologically re-enacted the central story of the ancient Hebrew people who were led by God through Moses out of a land of oppression and into a promised land. Christians understood that they could serve their Lord (who accepted slave status himself in dying on a cross) in whatever station in life they found themselves. By regarding slaves as "brothers" and therefore equals before the Lord, the writers of the New Testament transformed the meaning of slavery. That the church has so many different biblical, historical, and theological resources for reflecting on slavery, and that the practices of Christians in relation to slavery have ranged so widely, jointly underscore the value of a conference on the proposed subject.

Further, the debilitating effects of slavery in our own recent American past linger on. Regrettably, the church can claim no better than a mixed record regarding slavery, oppression, and prejudice in this context. The institution of slavery varied widely in the Americas, but the United States serves as an example of both changing and conflicting religious assumptions about slavery. Colonial Quakers were the first Christian group in the British American colonies to protest slavery actively, but by the late eighteenth century, other Christian bodies also became vocal antislavery adherents. Influenced by the spiritual egalitarianism of the Bible, as well as by the political ideology of the American Revolution, many Christians joined in a crusade to expunge slaveholding members from their congregations. By the early nineteenth century, however, the antislavery message began to splinter. Northern Christians continued to contest the legitimacy of slavery, but as cotton became entrenched in the South, southern Christians generally silenced their opposition to slavery, and over time turned their argument in a different direction, utilizing religion and the Bible to defend slavery as a positive good. Christianity, then, provided resources for two conflicting positions in America, one that sanctioned and endorsed slavery along biblical lines, and one that condemned slavery as a moral evil. Only civil war would decide the fate of slavery, and then not without a hard and prolonged fight, one in which both sides relied heavily upon religion to legitimize their cause.

The symposium will bring together distinguished plenary speakers, paper-presenting scholars from varied disciplines, parish pastors, seminarians, students, and others, and (with their help) clarify the underlying economic, political, social, and spiritual causes for slavery; understand the deforming effects of slavery on both slave and slaveholder; illuminate the complex history of Christian complicity in and censuring of slavery; examine morally and theologically credible conclusions about the antebellum practice of slavery, the perpetuation of prejudicial and oppressive practices in today's society, and the church's appropriate responses; and explore the merits and limitations of slavery as a metaphor for the life in Christ. It thus will support the aims of the Pruit Memorial Endowment by addressing an issue of perennial and contemporary social significance, by enabling an interdisciplinary group of participants to exemplify the morally bounded nature of Christian scholarly inquiry, and by showing the importance of a Christian scholarly vocation that does not retreat to ivory tower abstruseness, but which contributes to the improvement of public and ecclesial intellectual life.

Plenary Speakers

Keith R. Bradley

Eli J. Shaheen Professor and Chair of Classics, University of Notre Dame. A specialist of Greek and Roman social and cultural history, Bradley is the author of over one hundred and twenty articles, essays, and reviews, as well as numerous books including Slaves and Masters in the Roman Empire, Slavery and Rebellion in the Roman World, and Slavery and Society at Rome.

Allen D. Callahan

Visiting Professor, Harvard Divinity School. Author of Embassy of Onesimus: The Letter of Paul to Philemon. His special interest in the problem of slavery and freedom in the New Testament and its meaning for contemporary Christians has led him to look at the history of the enslavement of Africans in the United States and Brazil. Callahan is completing a volume on the Bible in African-American life and letters and a commentary on the Johannine epistles.

Jennifer A. Glancy

Georg Professor of Religious Studies, Le Moyne college. Author of Slavery in Early Christianity (Oxford, 2002). Glancy's work situates early Christian thought and practice in the historical context of the Roman Empire. Her current research traces early Christian expressions of masculinity and violence and investigates the impact of slaveholding culture on the structures and ideologies of emerging churches.

Caleb Oladipo

Duke K. McCall Professor of Christian Missions, Baptist Theological Seminary of Richmond. Author of The Development of the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the Yoruba (African) Indigenous Christian Movement and other articles, essays, and reviews exploring the character of African Christianity. Oladipo is currently working on two book-length projects, African Immigrant Theologian: Exploring the Roles of Creative Doubt in the Confessions of St. Augustine and Spoken and Unspoken Voices of the Church in Rebuilding Post-apartheid South Africa.

Albert Raboteau

Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion at Princeton University. His research and teaching have focused on American Catholic history and African-American religious movements. He has written Slave Religion, The 'Invisible Institution' in the Antebellum South, which was awarded the National Religious Book Award, A Fire in the Bones, Reflections on African-American Religious History, African-American Religion and most recently A Sorrowful Joy.

Ralph Wood

University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University. His scholarship has been devoted primarily to Christian literary classics (especially the works of Dante, Herbert, Bunyan, and Hopkins), the Oxford Inklings, as well as 20th century theologians and novelists (including Karl Barth, Reinhold Niebuhr, John Updike, and Walker Percy). His books entitled The Comedy of Redemption, Contending for the Faith, and The Gospel According to Tolkien have all won large audiences. His most recent work, Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South, deals extensively with the question of race and religion in America culture.


Thursday, September 30

12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

Registration/Check In—2nd Floor Foyer, Bill Daniel Student Center (BDSC)

1:00-1:15 p.m.

Opening Remarks—Barfield Drawing Room, BDSC

1:30 to 3:00 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Slavery and Race in Scripture - Gregory Room, BDSC

  • Hulitt Gloer, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Danny Hays, Ouachita Baptist University: Moses and His Black African Wife: A Biblical Perspective on Inter-racial Marriage
  • Todd Still, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University: Pauline Eschatology and Ancient Slavery: Probing a Complex and Perplexing Interplay
  • Jesper Svartvik, Lund University Center for Theological and Religious Studies: To Whom Is the Christian Female Slave in Thrall?

Christianity and the Limits of Racial Equality in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century America - Baines Room, BDSC

  • Kimberly R. Kellison, Baylor University: Commentator
  • Edward Blum, Baylor University: Jim Crow and Jesus Christ: African American Religious Challenges to White Christian Nationhood
  • Thomas Kidd, Baylor University: Daniel Rogers' Egalitarian Awakening

Slavery, Civilization and Progress - Beckham Room, BDSC

  • Michael Hanby, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Martin Klein, Carleton College: Islam, Christianity and the Problem of Slavery
  • Philip Wilson, Penn State College of Medicine: Impeding the 'Geographical March of Civilization': Slavery in Arnold Guyot's Earth and Man (1849)

3:00 to 3:30 p.m.


3:30 to 5:00 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Slavery in Early and Late Antiquity - Gregory, BDSC

  • Aaron Johnson, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Peter Hunt, University of Colorado, Boulder: Slave Culture and Athenian Culture
  • Noel Lenski, University of Colorado, Boulder: The Law of Slavery in Late Antiquity

Teaching about Slavery - Fentress Room, BDSC

  • Barry Hankins, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • David Koeller, North Park University: Teaching Global Slavery in the Undergraduate Curriculum: The North Park Dialogue
  • Collin Messer, Calvin College: Preaching to the Choir? Reading and Teaching Frederick Douglass' Christian Rhetoric

Reflections of Three Black Women Authors - Beckham, BDSC

  • Peaches M. Henry, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • April Langley, University of Missouri-Columbia: 'Niobe in Distress' for Hagar, Eve and Mary
  • Elizabeth Dell, Baylor University: Dressing the Master: Elizabeth Keckley and Jefferson Davis's Robe, Christmas 1860
  • Craig Edwards, Oklahoma Wesleyan University: Blackmale Slavery: The Challenge of Post-Bellum Marital Slavery to the Black Woman's Christian Faith in Zora Hurston's Sweat

Baptist Struggles with Slavery and Its Legacy - Baines, BDSC

  • William H. Brackney, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Lloyd Johnson, Campbell University: Elhanan Winchester: The Anti-Slavery Views of an Eighteenth Century Universalist Baptist Minister
  • Eddie Stepp, Gardner-Webb University: Slaves or Brothers? Southern Baptists, Missions and Race Relations, 1846-1860
  • Fred Bailey, Abilene Christian University: Southern Baptist and the Lingering Influence of Slavery: Clergy, Class, and Social Order, 1890 to 1920

5:00 to 8:00 p.m.


8:00 to 9:30 p.m.

Plenary Presentation - Barfield, BDSC

  • Alden Smith, Baylor University: Introduction
  • Keith R. Bradley, University of Notre Dame: The Bitter Chain of Slavery: Reflections on Slavery in Ancient Rome

Friday, October 1

8:30 to 10:00 a.m.

Concurrent Sessions

The Aesthetics and Politics of Slavery in American Literature - Beckham, BDSC

  • Nancy Chinn, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Sarah Ford, Baylor University: Slavery in Sarah Pogson's The Young Carolinians
  • J. R. LeMaster, Baylor University: Double Enslavement: The Case of Toni Morrison's Beloved
  • Joe Fulton, Baylor University: Help! Help! For the Stricken Land! The Prophetic Form in Mark Twain's Critique of Reconstruction "Re-enslavement"

Rebel and Runaway Slaves in Antiquity - Gregory, BDSC

  • Antony Augoustakis, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Christopher Fuhrmann, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Fugitive Slave Hunting and Elite Priorities in the Roman Empire
  • Peter Arzt-Grabner, University of Salzburg: Runaway and Roaming Slaves in Roman Society and in Paul

Christianity and Slavery: Encounter and Response - Fentress, BDSC

  • Robert Kruschwitz, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • William Moore, Lovejoy Society: Owen Lovejoy's Method of Political success: Challenging the Fugitive Slave Laws with the Bible and the Underground Railroad
  • Harold Tallant, Georgetown College: With Charity for All: Slavery and Christian Love in Antebellum America

The Antebellum Abolitionists - Baines, BDSC

  • Michael Hanby, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • R. Paul Gray, Midwestern State University: Francis Asbury and Slavery
  • Harry Zeiders: Gradualism and Immediatism: Change Agency in the Abolitionism of Wilberforce, Finney and Weld
  • John English, Baker University: Religion of Robert Wedderburn, an Abolitionist and 'Radical Reformer'

10:00 to 10:30 a.m.


10:30 to 12:00 p.m.

Plenary Presentation - Barfield, BDSC

  • David E. Garland, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University: Introduction
  • Allen D. Callahan, Harvard Divinity School: Paul's Epistle to Philemon: Reading the Bible in a White Settler State

12:00 to 1:30 p.m.


1:30 to 3:00 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Philemon: A Panel Discussion - Barfield, BDSC

  • Charles Talbert, Baylor University: Moderator
  • David E. Garland, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University
  • Allen Callahan, Harvard Divinity School
  • Peter Arzt-Grabner, University of Salzburg
  • John Nordling, Baylor University
  • Todd Still, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University

Global Slavery and Economics, Past and Present - Gregory, BDSC

  • Todd Lake, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Musheer Kamau, Baylor University: Neo-emancipation in the Contemporary Global Society: Political Attitudes and Oppression
  • Anthony Bradley, Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty: The Ethics and Economics of Modern Slavery in India
  • John Turner, Notre Dame: The 'Black White Man': William H. Sheppard and Economic Slavery in the Belgian Congo

Rhetoric and the Nineteenth Century Slavery Debate - Baines, BDSC

  • Barry Harvey, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Glenn Meeter, Northern Illinois University: The Meaning of Milton in Owen Lovejoy's Anti-Slavery Rhetoric, 1842-1863
  • Shawn Mosher, Baylor University: Douglass Disillusioned: Slavery and the Shackles of Moral Suasion
  • Sean Lucas, Covenant Theological Seminary: A Defense of Virginia, the South, and Master: Robert Lewis Dabney's Proslavery Polemics

Race, Gender and Self-Identity: The Constructed Self - Beckham, BDSC

  • Jerry Park, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Rochelle Schnyder, Baylor University: The Dirty Word: Global 'Feminism' in Places High and Low
  • Kristina LaCelle-Peterson, Houghton College: Female Experiences of Slavery in the Antebellum US

3:00 to 3:30 p.m.


3:30 to 5:00 p.m.

Plenary Presentation - Barfield, BDSC

  • Sharyn Dowd, Baylor University: Introduction
  • Jennifer A. Glancy, Le Moyne College: Habits of Slavery and the Early Christian Body

5:00 to 6:00 p.m.


6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Banquet Dinner

7:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Plenary Presentation - Cashion 510, Hankamer School of Business

  • Jim SoRelle, Baylor University: Introduction
  • Albert J. Raboteau, Princeton University: African-American Slaves, Christianity, and the Mystery of Suffering

Saturday, October 2

8:30 to 10:00 a.m.

Concurrent Sessions

And Justice for Some: Slavery in the American Courtroom - Fentress, BDSC

  • David Nichols, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Bernie D. Jones, University of Massachusetts-Amherst: Moralism, in Search of Pious Atonement, Responding with Righteous Indignation: Antebellum Southern Justices on Interracial Families and Inheritance Rights
  • Linda Hudson, East Texas Baptist University: Slavery in Texas Supreme Court Cases, 1841-1907: A Lack of Christian Principles, Ethics and Morals

The Slaveholding Culture of Greco-Roman Antiquity - Gregory, BDSC

  • Brent Froberg, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Jeffrey Hunt, Brown University: Freedmen and homines in the Cena Trimalchionis
  • Grace West, University of Dallas: Experiencing Slavery through Roman Comedy: The Slaves of Plautus' Miles Gloriosus
  • Amy Vail, Baylor University: Slavery in Aristotle's Politics

Crossing Over: Navigating Boundaries of Social, Cultural, and Spiritual Space in the Works of Frederick Douglass, William Faulkner, and Toni Morrison - Beckham, BDSC

  • Kimberly R. Kellison, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Nancy Chinn and Mona Choucair, Baylor University: For Sixty Million and More: Resurrecting Meaning in Toni Morrison's Gravestone Imagery
  • Coretta Pittman, Baylor University: Cautionary Tales: Crossing Boundaries in Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  • Richard Russell, Baylor University: Providing Heavenly Hope: The Spiritual in Faulkner's Go Down, Moses

Keeping the Faith : The Enslaved and Oppressed Christian in America - Baines, BDSC

  • Brett Dewey, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Constantina Michalos, David Capes, Houston Baptist University: Coerced or Committed: The Conversion Experience of America's Slaves
  • Christina Hitchcock, University of Sioux Falls: Sweet Canaan: Slaves and the New World
  • Matt J. Zacharias Harper, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: A Black Church's Response to the Racial Oppression of the Jim Crow South

10:00 to 10:30 a.m.


10:30 to 12:00 p.m.

Plenary Presentation - Barfield, BDSC

  • Douglas Henry, Baylor University: Introduction
  • Ralph C. Wood, Baylor University: Southern Slavery and the Southern Answer to It in the Fiction of Flannery O'Connor

12:00 to 1:30 p.m.


1:30 to 3:00 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

Slaveries in Other Times and Places - Baines, BDSC

  • Martin Klein, Carleton College: moderator
  • Stephen Hodkinson, University of Nottingham: Receptions of helotage: ancient and modern
  • Joseph Miller, University of Virginia: Private Slaveries and Public Spheres: Issues of Slaving in Early Christian and Early African Historical Contexts
  • Chandima Wickramasinghe, University of Nottingham: Slavery in Ancient Sri Lanka: Impact of Buddhism and of Christian Missionary Services

Slavery and the Early Church - Gregory, BDSC

  • David White, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Joel Weaver, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University: A Fifth Century View of Slavery: Slavery in the Writings of Theodoret of Cyrus
  • Aaron Johnson, Baylor University: "A Most Beautiful Slavery" - Eusebius of Casesarea on Slavery and Identity

Harriet Beecher Stowe and Her Contemporaries - Beckham, BDSC

  • Virginia Kearney, Baylor University: Session Chair
  • Joy Jordan-Lake, Baylor University: Mothering the Other, Othering the Mother: An African-American Woman Battles Slavery and Uncle Tom
  • Linda Naranjo-Huebl, Calvin College: Take, Eat, for This Is My Body: the Nurturing and the Danger of Loss of Self in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Uncle Tom's Cabin
  • Leroy Pepper, Trevecca Nazarene University: Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Perfection of the Republic

3:00 to 3:30 p.m.


3:30 to 5:00 p.m.

Plenary Presentation - Barfield, BDSC

  • Blake Burleson, Baylor University: Introduction
  • Caleb Oladipo, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond: Slavery and Race: The Ideological Dots that Connected Ancient Practice with Modern Color Typology and the Idea of a Non-racial Society