From 1858 to 1877 a group of Afro-Creole men in New Orleans practiced American Spiritualism and received messages from the spirit world. The spirits of the dead advised the Cercle Harmonique, as they called themselves, on issues of theology and politics. Though the Spiritualism practiced by the Cercle Harmonique was similar to that of white, northern Protestants, the practice of the Afro-Creoles was a distinctively African American religion. One of the clearest ways to navigate the process in which Spiritualism became Afro-Creole Spiritualism is by attending to the group's use of the language and rhetoric of martyrdom. Martyrdom provided the Cercle Harmonique a language for understanding the racial violence that surrounded them, and that language also offered the proper response to the violence. The Spiritualist martyrs who engaged the Cercle Harmonique were those who died in defense of Black rights and in contest with white supremacy.

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