Slave Missions and Membership in North Alabama
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As white landowners settled the North Alabama towns of Florence, Huntsville, and Tuscaloosa with their slaves, they began to create missions for the religious education of blacks. Many did so out of a desire to share their eternal conviction and hope with their slaves, while others saw a means to instill obedience and efficiency in their slaves. Some, such as the members of the Southern Baptist Convention, showed evidence of both conviction and control. Blacks found ways to gain some freedom in churches and missions through formal church offices – such as exhorter and watchman – and through unique expression in worship and ceremony. Blacks in North Alabama found their greatest expressive freedom in semi-independent churches such as First African Baptist Church in Huntsville and in brush arbor meetings throughout the area. While blacks could maneuver within the formal church, slave testimonies reveal that their most memorable religious experiences came during revivals and brush arbor meetings.