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In case the title "The Church and Prejudice" doesn't totally give it away, let's spell it out.
Douglass is talking about the Church. And prejudice.
Er, prejudice in the Church.
How else can we put it?
It might not be surprising that churches in slaveholding states supported slavery. But Douglass experienced prejudice even in Northern churches that were trying to be more progressive…and failing. Douglass blames slavery for the prejudice. When it comes down to it, the very existence of slavery makes white people view black people as inferior.
Yep, even at church.
Northerners may have abolished slavery, but they didn't abolish their racism.
Douglass convincingly demonstrates how hypocritical it is that people can go around all holier-than-thou and quoting Jesus and then beat other people to within an inch of their lives.
Frederick Douglass escaped slavery in 1838 and became involved with the abolition movement in the North. In August 1841, he spoke up at a meeting of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and was hired as a lecturer—guess his peanut gallery insight was that good.
"The Church and Prejudice" was given at a meeting of the Plymouth County (Massachusetts) Anti-Slavery Society on November 4th, 1841 and is one of Douglass' earliest significant speeches.
Douglass starts off with three examples of prejudice against black people in both Northern and Southern churches that he's personally witnessed. Yeah, he's not making this stuff up.
Then he gets into the question of why this prejudice exists and concludes that the practice of slavery causes white people to see black people as inferior. He accuses white people of creating a system weighted against black people ever achieving true equality.
He contrasts prejudice and slavery itself, saying there's really no comparison: slavery's a whole different ball game. He brings it home by connecting slavery to the religion taught in Southern churches, which uses the Bible as a defense for slavery.
Finally, he winds up with a memorable example of a slaveholder who pretends to be (and no doubt believes he is) a very religious and virtuous man—and then goes home and beats his slaves within an inch of their lives.
Christians talk a good game about Jesus loving everybody the same, but they sure seem to want their churches—and even their afterlife—segregated by race.