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A new format we’re trying here on the blog is the Global Theology Countdown, where we will break down a large topic into more easily accessible parts, linking to other sites for those who would want to go deeper.
- 4 Keys to Understanding
- 3 People to Know
- 2 Blogs Worth Reading
- 1 Book to Read Immediately
There was an article published recently by John Thorton and Linda Heywood, both of Boston University, on The Root about the conversion of the king and the kingdom of Kongo to Catholicism in the 1400s. It is an excellent historical reminder of the varied cultural expressions of Christianity throughout history. Espcecially poignant to me are the implications to the Christianity expressed within the African-American community that would find its ancestry (partially) within these brothers and sisters.
About 1 in 5 Americans of African descent come from Kongolese stock, with the greatest percentages being concentrated in South Carolina and Louisiana. They carried their religion with them, as well; the Stono Rebellion in 1739, the largest slave uprising in the U.S. before independence, was led by Kongolese Catholics anxious to escape slavery in Protestant South Carolina to freedom in Catholic Florida.
In some parts of the Americas, Kongolese actually created their own missionary activity. George Christian Andreas Oldendorp, a Moravian missionary, reported that Kongolese slaves in the Virgin Islands baptized and catechized incoming slaves from non-Christian Africa; the Brazilian Inquisition examined the activities of Pedro Congo, who dressed in priestly garb and said Mass to a congregation drawn mostly from non-Christian parts of Africa.
This complex story reveals an important aspect of the African-American past: that 20 percent of African Americans descend from Africans who came to these shores from a region that had sustained its own version of Christianity for four generations before the first Africans arrived in Virginia.