Mechal Sobel's fascinating study of the religious history of slaves and free blacks in antebellum America is presented here in a compact volume without the appendixes. Sobel's central thesis is that Africans brought their world views into North America where, eventually, under the tremendous pressures and hardships of chattel slavery, they created a coherent faith that preserved and revitalized crucial African understandings and usages regarding spirit and soul-travels, while melding them with Christian understandings of Jesus and individual salvation.
"Sobel has used a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, and history of religion, and has orchestrated them well to support her thesis. She has made good use of the extensive materials on black history now available, which present the views of blacks themselves on their own experience. Above all, Sobel takes seriously the religion of black people, and shows its creative power to construct a sacred cosmos. The book will not close the debate over continuity or discontinuity in the American black experience from Africa to America, but it will have to be taken seriously by all the debaters."--Andrew E. Murray, Journal of American History
"Mechal Sobel illuminates the form and content of the religious experience of the largest group of Christian slaves. She especially argues, and is largely convincing, for the centrality of the spiritual experience generally ignored by historians. The focus on the inner aspect of religious experience is fresh and powerful."--Eugene Genovese, University of Rochester
Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Mechal Sobel: