From the beginning of European colonialism in the New World, Africans and people of African descent used religious language and ideology to protest the interlocking of religion, the state, and slavery. Throughout the Americas, slavery was built on a legal superstructure undergirded by imperial, national, and local power. Government produced and enforced the slave codes that defined human beings as property and legalized their torture, maiming, and execution. Therefore, any protest or act of resistance against slavery was by definition directed against the state as well. From slave rebellions to freedom petitions to protests against the U.S. Fugitive Slave Law, religion inspired resistance against the terror of state-sponsored slavery.

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