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However the Africans continued expressing their own religions and their own gods until slave and plantation life began to shut them off from their African origins. One can imagine there were religious gatherings of Africans at this time. There is evidence that when slaves were given Sundays off in New Orleans they would go to a place called Congo Square and with drums and dance, continue the religious celebrations they had in Africa. Black women held a status that was at the bottom of the wheel throughout American history. They were never given official recognition by the Church as preachers. Their lives were brutal were they continuously fell victim to rape and sexual exploitation from white males. Yet the early history of the African American church demonstrates how some black women received the ‘call’ to preach and how they showed an inner strength that persevered and accounted for the survival of many women and children. There were always free African Americans. Some of them had bought their freedom. These slaves learned to read and write. The free slaves were surrounded by different expressions of the white American culture. The whites were primarily Christians and they practiced their Christianity through various religions such as the Puritans, the Quakers, the Methodist, the Catholics, Episcopalians, and the Mennonites, among others. All these religions were based on one source, the bible. Slaves and free blacks begin to realize that by reading and learning the Bible, they could become Christians too and participate as Christians in the American economy. This is what some of them did. Some of the slaves read the Bible and argued that they had become converted to Christianity by getting baptized. White leaders begin to realize that if black people read the Bible, they would probably question white people's conduct of slavery on moral grounds and begin to threaten the entire institution of slavery. The white people soon past laws that not only disallowed black slaves to become Christian converts, but to make sure that black people could not escape their status as slaves. But white slaveowners also used the Bible to preach to slaves that it was right that they show obedience to their masters. During the 1770s, the Great Awakening occurred among white Christians. This was an evangelist movement where the white preachers, some of them like George Whitefield becoming famous, preached to large groups of people, exciting them with flashy oratory and songs and moving great numbers of people to convert and become Christians. Among those black people who could read, they interpreted several important themes from the Bible. Freedom became a real concept to them and these blacks began comparing themselves to the Israelites whose God eventually led them from Egyptian captivity. The Bible also served as a reading instrument for some of the slaves who were determined to learn to read. African Americans were well aware of Christianity as a religion and as slaves many of them begin to fuse some of their own religious symbols in Christianity. Blacks begin to have their own spiritual meetings in secret on the plantations and these were actually seedlings of the first black churches. Christian religion allowed them to see contradictions between the way they were treated and the way Christians professed to be. Early Churches A few plantation owners built churches for the slaves and had white preachers preach to them about obeying and being meek before the master. Masters who trusted their slaves allowed them to read and study the bible. Georgle Liele's master allowed him to be baptized
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