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Rebecca's Revival

Rebecca's Revival

Creating Black Christianity in the Atlantic World

Jon F. Sensbach

ISBN 9780674022577

Publication date: 10/31/2006

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Rebecca's Revival is the remarkable story of a Caribbean woman--a slave turned evangelist--who helped inspire the rise of black Christianity in the Atlantic world. All but unknown today, Rebecca Protten left an enduring influence on African-American religion and society. Born in 1718, Protten had a childhood conversion experience, gained her freedom from bondage, and joined a group of German proselytizers from the Moravian Church. She embarked on an itinerant mission, preaching to hundreds of the enslaved Africans of St. Thomas, a Danish sugar colony in the West Indies. Laboring in obscurity and weathering persecution from hostile planters, Protten and other black preachers created the earliest African Protestant congregation in the Americas.

Protten's eventful life--the recruiting of converts, an interracial marriage, a trial on charges of blasphemy and inciting of slaves, travels to Germany and West Africa--placed her on the cusp of an emerging international Afro-Atlantic evangelicalism. Her career provides a unique lens on this prophetic movement that would soon sweep through the slave quarters of the Caribbean and North America, radically transforming African-American culture.

Jon Sensbach has pieced together this forgotten life of a black visionary from German, Danish, and Dutch records, including letters in Protten's own hand, to create an astounding tale of one woman's freedom amidst the slave trade. Protten's life, with its evangelical efforts on three continents, reveals the dynamic relations of the Atlantic world and affords great insight into the ways black Christianity developed in the New World.


  • Rebecca's Revival is one of the most daring books ever published on New World slavery, a book of triumphant scholarship with a heart. Sensbach has constructed a unique biography of an enslaved convert to Christianity from startlingly detailed previously unknown sources. Sensbach's unforgettable portrait of Rebecca's circuits through Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe may be the most powerful account of African resilience in the face of New World slavery since Frederick Douglass's My Bondage and My Freedom."

    —Jon Butler, author of Becoming America: The Revolution before 1776


  • Jon F. Sensbach is Associate Professor of History, University of Florida.

Book Details

  • 320 pages
  • 0-13/16 x 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press