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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program


Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



Eighteenth-century Methodist evangelism supported, perpetuated, and promoted slavery as requisite for a productive economy in the colonial American South. Religious thought of the First Great Awakening emerged alongside a colonial economy increasingly reliant on chattel slavery for its prosperity. The records of well-traveled celebrity minister and provocateur of the Anglican tradition, George Whitefield, suggest how Calvinist-Methodist evangelicals viewed slavery as necessary to supporting colonial ministerial efforts. Whitefield’s absorption of and immersion into American culture is revealed in his owning a plantation, portraying a willingness to sacrifice the mobility of the disfranchised for widespread consumption of evangelical thought. A side effect of this was free and formerly enslaved individuals of African descent gained direct access to itinerancy in the post-Revolutionary Atlantic world, as evidenced by the multi-racial ministerial network of Whitefield’s proslavery benefactor, Selina Hastings. Paradoxically, southern evangelicalism appealed to the disfranchised while perpetuating slavery as a socially normative, religiously-sanctioned institution.


First Advisor

Robert Cox

Second Advisor

Jennifer Heuer

Third Advisor

John Higginson