African slave religions, 1400–1790

Sylvester A. Johnson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


African slave religions were rooted in the cultural forms of western and central African religions. The paradigmatic features of these religions included central concern with powerful beings of the extraordinary realm who were related to the phenomenal world of experience through African ideas of matter and spirit. African religions had established a tradition of incorporating elements of theology and ritual from cultures other than that of the devotee. This history of refashioning and blending continued in the religion of African slaves that resulted from the dispersion of the transatlantic slave trade. Pre-columbian era to 1600, The nature of African slave religions is discernible from the major patterns of theology and culture that had defined African societies for centuries. The oldest stratum of religion in western and central Africa is Orisha religion, which mutually obligated humans and members of the extraordinary realm of divine and ancestral beings. Beginning in the ninth century of the Common Era, varieties of Islam would become familiar to the region. And by the early 1500s, the Kongo state, followed by the Ndongo kingdom, would establish an African form of Christianity as its official religion. Orisha religion, nevertheless, by far and away dominated the numerous states of West Africa. The theological interpretations of matter, commerce, and governance throughout West Africa were deliberately shaped and continually refashioned to conform to Orisha philosophical norms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Religions in America Volume I
Subtitle of host publicationPre-Columbian Times to 1790
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781139016865
ISBN (Print)9780521871105
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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