Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
by Harriet Jacobs
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Chapter.Paragraph
After the alarm caused by Nat Turner's insurrection had subsided, the slaveholders came to the conclusion that it would be well to give the slaves enough of religious instruction to keep them from murdering their masters. (13.1)
Religion was an important source of joy for many slaves, but sermons were also used to keep slaves in their place—or at least to try to.
“Although your masters may not find you out, God sees you; and he will punish you. You must forsake your sinful ways, and be faithful servants. Obey your old master and your young master--your old mistress and your young mistress. If you disobey your earthly master, you offend your heavenly Master. You must obey God's commandments. When you go from here, don't stop at the corners of the streets to talk, but go directly home, and let your master and mistress see that you have come." (13.4)
This is ironic: a free black man is hired to instruct the slaves to obey their masters. His sermon reflects white fears about slaves actually, you know, talking to each other. It's much better when your property keeps its mouth shut.
They never seem so happy as when shouting and singing at religious meetings. Many of them are sincere, and nearer to the gate of heaven than sanctimonious Mr. Pike, and other long-faced Christians, who see wounded Samaritans, and pass by on the other side. (13.6)
Jacobs wants to let her Northern readers know that black people are capable of being pious and devout worshippers. We also get the sense that religion provided an occasion for joyous release for slaves.