By Faith Perry
Hi! Welcome to my blog! My name is Faith and I am a sophomore at Southern Methodist University. You are probably thinking that this is just another repetitive college blog about university life, classes, and extra advice on what to study. However, I can assure you that this is a very different college blog. My blog will go into depth about the intellectual journey I have been on while studying the Great Awakening, something many people have probably never heard. Like many of you, before taking my digital history class I did not have a concrete understanding of what the Great Awakening was, who was involved, when it happened, and why is was important. In this blog I will tell you all about how I came to learn about the Great Awakening through specific sources, what I have learned about the Great Awakening, and what you can take away from my specific research. In particular, I will go into detail about the Great Awakening’s contribution to equality and freedom, which was seen as revivalist preachers reached out to minority groups such as African Americans.
One of my classes in particular called Doing Digital History has opened my eyes to new methods of analyzing history using digital sources and digital maps. Since August, my class has been researching the wave of revivals that swept across America during the 18th century. At first, I was a bit uncertain and nervous as to my abilities to digitally analyze history; especially using sources I have never worked with before such as ArcGIS.
However, with the guidance of my professor and the collaboration with my classmates, I have been able to collect fifty data points using the Baptist Annual Registrar. I would like to describe what I have learned and the paths I have chosen to seek out information about the Great Awakening.
To begin, I will give you a general overview on the Great Awakening. The Great Awakening was a religious revival that occurred during the 18th century. This revival was a revitalization of religious feeling energized by meetings and the introduction of new denominations. The Great Awakening was a period in which Americans awakened from being religious, in the respect that they attend church and believe that the bible is important but are not fully engaged, to then becoming super religious, in which individuals became more empowered, enthusiastic, and excited about the impact religion had on their lives. The belief that all people are equal grew in the colonies, which was notable by the participation of slaves. During the 18th century, Anglican missionaries tried to bring Christianity to slaves. African Americans found significance in the equality messages of the Great Awakening. This notion of acceptance and unity set the political context of African Americans to identify with Baptist ideals and is what intrigued me to analyze this topic further.
While studying the Great Awakening, I am specializing my attention towards the Baptist Annual Register. The Baptist Annual Register is a source that has provides an immense amount of insight into Baptist history in America. Through the Register, I have been able to collect data points using collections of the churches, associations, minutes from annual meetings, and from their printed letters. The correspondence in the register includes Baptists home and abroad, thus bringing people and communities together even though they are geographically so far apart. What I found particularly interesting was the Great Awakening’s contribution to equality and freedom, which was seen as revivalist preachers reached out to minority groups. African Americas were one of these minority groups that were presented to be in a position of choosing who and what to put their faith in, giving them the power to choose what religion and church they wanted to belong to.
The correspondence in the Baptist Annual Register that included African Americans was limited, but is displayed through diverse African
people and their cultural encounters. African Americans began to embrace faith and even gathered in
independent church communities to worship. Kimberly Tosco writes, “the evangelical revivals of the Great Awakening…set the context for the conversion of enslaved African Americans.” The message of the evangelical “spiritual transformation” available to all individuals saw a great response from African Americans. The responses from African Americans lead many of them to participate in the revivals and embrace their faith. This also lead to the the development of Black leadership, the the ordinations of African American, African American preachers were praying publically, and black churches were forming. According to Kimberly Sambol Tosco, the revivals of the Great Awakening “extended the geographical reach of evangelicalism” particularly in Africa, Bermuda, and Jamaica. Salvation and freedom seemed to be a unified message that linked evangelicalism and minatory groups like African Americans. Independent black Baptist churches, such as the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia founded by Andrew Bryan, showed the immense impact revivals had.
By taking classes such as Doing Digital History, you can challenge yourself to look beyond the traditional methods of study and expand your mind. This digital history course has been vital for developing my critical thinking, as it aids in intellectual and academic growth by giving me skills I can use and value during and after college. Doing Digital History enabled me to search for deeper meanings and analyze topics in order to form my own arguments. I encourage you to seek out classes that have subject mater and tools that you have never heard of before because it will challenge and surprise you! If your interested in the list of data points I collected about the impact the Great Awakening had on African Americans and their growing involvement, then you can look no further than right under my post! Thanks for reading my college blog! Stay turned for my next post!
List of Ten Data Points
- The Georgia Association (Kioka Creek Church): This data point is the minutes from a meeting on 5/15/1785 in Kioka Creek, Georgia, consisting of 5 churches, where Rev. Abraham Marshall assisted poor African Americans in forming the church of Savannah.
- This data point is a letter from Free Town, Sierra Leone, dated on 9/13/1793, where a black minister named David George is talking about how he and his congregation were captured and taken on slave ships to America.
- Thomas Nicholas Swigle sent a letter to Dr. Rippon from Kingston, Jamaica saying that they have purchased a lot of land in James Street and have built a house to worship in. Swingle also writes “we intend as soon as our Lord is pleased to enable us (we being poor people) to build a meeting house” and says that there is more encouragement given to introduce the Gospel among African Americans and slaves than was ever known before.
- This data point is also from Thomas Nicholas Swingle letter from Jamaica where Swigle states that Brother John Gilbert, a free black man and one of their elders, has gone over to the north side and has met with great encouragement there and now has a great number of believers: in the “parish of Saint George, many of them are truly converted, and were baptized by him”.
- Swingle writes again that brother George Gibbs, a free man, resides in Spanish town (the capital) and has permission to preach on Dove-Hall sugar estate to a great number of slaves on that property and he has baptized several.
- Spring Creek Church: This data point is a letter dated 1/1/1799 from Powhatan County, Virginia in which Benjamin Watkins wrote that Brother Jacob Grigg, one of the African Missionaries, paid his church a visit last January and Watkins described Grigg as a very intellectual man and his preaching was well received.
- December 23, 1800 in Savannah, Georgia an African American man named Andrew Bryan wrote to Rev. Dr. Rippon that he prizes that him and his community “enjoy the rights of conscience to a valuable extent, worshiping in our families, and preaching three times every Lord’s day, baptizing frequently from 10 to 30 at a time in Savannah and administering the sacred supper in the presence and encouragement of many white people”.
- On 7/19/1790 Andrew Bryan writes a letter describing the news of the First Black Baptist church in Savannah, Georgia.
- This data point is an account of several Baptist Churches on 9/15/7190 in Ridgeland, Euhaw County, South Carolina where a letter from Rev. Mr. Joseph Cook states that “a poor negro…Brother George has been so highly favored of God as to plant the first Baptist Church in Savannah and another in Jamaica”. This account produced an earnest desire to know the circumstances of both societies. Letters were written to Rev. Cook at the Euhaw to Mr. Jonathan Clarke at Savannah to Mr. Wesley’s people in Kingston with a view to obtain information.
- The African American George Liele wrote a letter from Kingston, Jamaica on 12/18/1791 that he was informed by both white and black people that his father was the only black person who knew the lord in a spiritual way and he had always had a natural fear of God from youth, but knew no other way for the hope of salvation.
Rippon, John, 1751-1836. The Baptist Annual Register: Including Sketches of the State
of Religion Among Different Denominations of Good Men At Home And Abroad. [London], https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015016782453;view=1up;seq=16
Tosco, Kimberly Sambol. “Slavery and the Making of America. The Slave Experience:
Religion PBS.” THIRTEEN – MEDIA WITH IMPACT, www.thirteen.org/wnet/slavery/experience/religion/history.html.
 Kimberly Tosco “Slavery and the Making of America PBS.”