J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Boles on Non-Whites in Colonial Churches at Old South, 5 June

Tonight at Old South Meeting House, Richard Boles will speak on the topic “Interracial But Not Integrated: African Americans, Native Americans, and New England’s Colonial Churches.”

The event description says:

Many Native Americans and mostly-enslaved African Americans participated in New England churches between the 1730s and 1790s, including the Old South Meeting House and other Boston churches. They participated by attending services, being baptized, and taking the Lord’s Supper, and did so despite segregated seating arrangements and prohibitions against voting and holding church leadership positions.
New England’s Puritan culture avidly pushed everyone to participate in (Congregationalist) religious worship. At the same time, that society wanted to maintain lines between whites and non-whites, free and enslaved.

One manifestation of this was the requirement that black and Indian worshippers (as well as adolescent apprentices) sit in meetinghouse galleries or balconies, away from the pews owned by established families. Some meetings tried to maintain that customs well after New England states started to end slavery, insisting on segregated “negro galleries” even if African-American families had purchased pews. I quoted William C. Nell on how two churches mistreated the family of one Revolutionary War veteran way back here.

Richard Boles is professor of history at Oklahoma State University, specializing in the study of early American religion from the perspective of non-European worshippers and observers.

This event starts tonight at 6:30. It is co-presented by the Congregational Library & Archives and funded by the Lowell Institute. It is free and open to the public, though registration is requested.

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