Religious Dancing of American Slaves, 1820-1865. Spiritual Ecstasy at Baptisms, Funerals, and Sunday Meetings

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In contrast to recent historiography, this work reasserts the argument that slaves were not merely the victims of a brutal regime, but lived largely separate lives within a distinct sphere.


“The slave was not as silent as many historians have assumed, and in this book the slave thinks, speaks and sings for himself or herself. . . . The slave emerges as neither a child nor a laborer imbued with the protestant work ethic, but an individual who, detached from the outside world, leads an emotional existence . . .” – Prof. Hugh Tulloch, University of Bristol

“Ken Thomas’ writing is wonderfully evocative. He has a brilliant capacity to use historiography to conjure up the lived experiences of slaves . . . an immensely well-written book that is a pleasure to read. - Prof. Philip Richter, Sarum College

“. . . brings a fresh perspective. . . makes sophisticated use of the latest sociological and anthropological literature on the centrality of dance to the formation of community; something which no other historian has done in this way to the best of my knowledge.” - Prof. David Brown, University of Manchester

Table of Contents

List of tables
Foreword by Hugh Tulloch
1. Contours
2. South Carolinas
3. Baptism
4. Sundays
5. Spirituals
6. Ecstasy
7. Funerals
8. Black America
Select bibliography

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