Black Itinerants of the Gospel: The Narratives of John Jea and George White
John Jea (b. 1773) and George White (1764-c.1830) were two of the earliest African-American autobiographers, writing nearly a half-century before Frederick Douglass published his famous narrative chronicling his experiences as a slave, a freedman, and an ardent abolitionist. Jea and White represent an earlier generation of African-Americans that were born into slavery but granted their freedom shortly after American independence, in the 1780s. Both men chose to fight against slavery from the pulpit, as itinerant Methodist ministers in the North. Methodism's staunch anti-slavery stance, acceptance of African-American congregants, and widespread use of itinerant preachers enhanced black religious practices and services in the late eighteenth century and the nineteenth century. Graham Hodges' substantial introduction to the book places these two narratives into historical context, and highlights several key themes, including slavery in the North, the struggle for black freedom after the Revolution, and the rise of African-American Christianity.
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