African-American Religion: A Documentary History Project
Teaching Resources

Religion 319
Religious Encounters in the Colonial Atlantic World

Fall Term 1999–2000, MW 1:30–2:50pm

Professor Albert J. Raboteau
Princeton University

The encounter of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans in the world of the colonial Atlantic from the mid-fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries constituted America. Over time and space, the Atlantic Ocean sustained a series of economic, military, and cultural relations between these peoples. This lecture and discussion course will offer students the opportunity to read primary and secondary sources narrating the formation and development of a new world. Reading, writing, and reflection will focus upon the dynamic and complex processes of cultural change that resulted in religious conflict, resistance, exchange, and innovation.

Required Texts:

Stephen Greenblatt, Marvellous Possesions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992)

Inga Clendinnen, Aztecs: An Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)

Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative (New York: Penguin Books, 1995)

James Axtell, The Invasion Within (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986)

Richard Price, Alabis World (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990)

Philip Morgan, Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998)

A Course Reader, including selected documents, headnotes, and narrative taken from working drafts of the first two volumes of African-American Religion: A Historical Interpretation with Representative Documents, co-edited by Albert J. Raboteau and David W. Wills.

Course Outline and Readings:

I. The Formation of the Atlantic World

Course Reader, pp. 390, 14058, 17081, 199212

II. An African-Iberian Atlantic

Course Reader, pp. 12439, 15969, 18289

III. Interpreting the New

Greenblatt, Marvellous Possesions

IV. Spiritual Conquest?

Course Reader, pp. 21340
Clendinnen, Aztecs
Video, “The Mission”

V. Resistance

Course Reader, pp. 24256, 276305
Price, Alabi
s World

VI. Conversion(s)

Axtell, The Invasion Within
Video, “Black Robe”

VII. Telling the Story

Equiano, The Interesting Narrative

VIII. The Cultures of Slavery

Morgan, Slave Counterpoint

IX. The Cultures of Slaver (cont.)

Morgan, Slave Counterpoint
Video, “Bahia: Africa in America”

X. Summary and Conclusion


Attendance in class and participation in discussion is essential. Unavoidable absences should be cleared with the instructor beforehand. There will be a take-home midterm and a take-home final exercise, based upon readings, discussion, and reflection. Each student will offer a brief definition (two pages) of one of a series of models of religious encounter, such as “syncretism,” “acculturation,” “juxtaposition,” or “reinterpretation.”

Copyright © 2006 The Trustees of Amherst College and
African-American Religion: A Documentary History Project
Amherst College #2269, P. O. Box 5000
Amherst, MA 01002–5000

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