Race and Redemption in Puritan New England
Although puritans in 17th-century New England lived alongside both Native Americans and Africans, the white New Englanders imagined their neighbors as something culturally and intellectually distinct from themselves. Legally and practically, they saw people of color as simultaneously human and less than human, things to be owned. Yet all of these people remained New Englanders, regardless of the color of their skin, and this posed a problem for puritans. In order to fulfill John Winthrop's dream of a "city on a hill," New England's churches needed to contain all New Englanders. To deal with this problem, white New Englanders generally turned to familiar theological constructs to redeem not only themselves and their actions (including their participation in race-based slavery) but also to redeem the colonies' Africans and Native Americans. Richard A. Bailey draws on diaries, letters, sermons, court documents, newspapers, church records, and theological writings to tell the story of the religious and racial tensions in puritan New England.
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