REBECCA'S REVIVAL: Creating Black Christianity in the Atlantic World

Jon F. Sensbach, Author . Harvard Univ. $22.95 (302p) ISBN 978-0-674-01689-7

Sensbach, a professor of history at the University of Florida, offers a fascinating study of a woman and a religious revival in the 18th century. His heroine is Rebecca Protten, a freed slave living and working in the Dutch colony of St. Thomas. Born around 1718, Rebecca was freed by her master, for reasons the historical sources do not reveal, sometime after 1730. Always religiously inclined, her commitment to Moravian Christianity blossomed under the tutelage of Friedrich Martin, a German missionary who came to St. Thomas in 1736. Within two years, Rebecca's piety and religious education had impressed Martin so much that he commissioned her as a fellow evangelist. Sensbach chronicles Rebecca's remarkable life, which included two marriages (one interracial), a grueling arrest and lots of travel, including to Europe and Africa. During an age when thousands of Africans were transported as slaves to the Americas, Sensbach notes that Rebecca "lived as a kind of reverse cultural bridge." Scholars will appreciate Sensbach's ability to successfully translate what is often understood as an "American" story into the whole Atlantic world. This book is a rare gem, reminiscent of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's A Midwife's Tale ; Sensbach's detective work in piecing together spare Dutch and German sources to recreate Rebecca's life is astonishing. His prose is fluid and graceful, his mind is sharp and the story he tells is riveting. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/17/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 315 pages - 978-0-674-04345-9
Paperback - 302 pages - 978-0-674-02257-7
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