The Intersection of Slavery, Christianity, and Our Current Health

I grew up in the church; my mother is a preacher, as are countless other family members. We weren’t the typical family who went to Sunday services though. 30-day revivals, trips to other states to attend services/convocations, active roles in Vacation Bible School and bible study in our home were just a few of the happenings that were a part of our reality.

Being so involved in church allowed me to notice a certain pitfall that members often ignore – their health. There were never any talks about sexual health, we didn’t speak on relationships with food, and mental health wasn’t ever a hot topic either. I know that no one had bad intentions and that they were just doing their best while following tradition. So, in this piece, I will briefly chronicle the history of Black American Christians and their intersection with health because it’s important to know how we got to this point.

Black, American Christianity began before Africans were brought to America for the purpose of slavery. According to a historical overview of religion (as it relates to the slave experience), European missionaries were exposing some African to Christianity in the 1400s. The rest were converted after they landed here.

Slaves were exposed to diseases that Europeans generally no longer faced or ones that were a direct result of their harsh environment on ships and plantations. Examples are tuberculosis, gastrointestinal issues, and malignant fever. Possibly a third of the slaves who were brought to America died within 4 years after their arrival. While these grave injustices were being glazed over, slaves were being force-fed Christianity because they were the wicked ones who