This is the second post in The Junto’s roundtable on the Black Atlantic. The first was by Marley-Vincent Lindsey. Mark Dixon is a PhD candidate in Church History at Princeton Theological Seminary writing a dissertation on the interaction and exchange between German Pietists and enslaved Africans in colonial South Carolina. He spent the past year (2015-16) as a Fulbright Graduate Fellow researching in Pietist archives in Halle and Herrnhut, Germany. He produces Church History Chat, a podcast featuring interviews with historians of Christianity, which will begin publishing episodes in February 2017.
A painting depicting the first Moravian converts. Johann Valentin Haidt, “First Fruits” (1747). Source.
If it sounds strange to speak of a German Atlantic in the first place, it must sound even stranger in a conversation dedicated to new scholarship and understandings of the Black Atlantic. After all, Germany was not an Atlantic colonial power, and German speakers were not as deeply involved in the slave trade as their British, Dutch, Portuguese, or Spanish neighbors. Indeed, Aaron Fogleman’s 2015 keynote lecture, “A German Atlantic, or Germans in the Atlantic?” delivered at the McNeil Center’s spring workshop, questioned the label’s usefulness for historians. I want simply to assert the reality of the German Atlantic, and more importantly speak to its surprising utility for scholars interested in the experiences of Africans and people of African descent in the eighteenth-century Atlantic. In particular, the activities of German Pietists (and their surviving sources) can enrich Black Atlantic studies. Continue reading