Christianity as Northern Motivation to Aid African American Advancement
Tourgee is comprehensive in his explanation of how Christianity played a part in slavery but not simply as a rationale for slave holders. In Bricks Without Straw he discusses the how religion served as a motivating factor for Northern abolitionists to advance the rights and skills of African Americans. “Perhaps there has been no grander thing in our history than the eager generosity with which the Christian men and women of the North gave and wrought, to bring the boon of knowledge to the recently-enslaved … It was the noblest spectacle that Christian civilization has ever witnessed--thousands of schools organized in the country of a vanquished foe” (Item 582). It is interesting that Tourgee addresses the way that Christianity was used as both as justification for slavery as well as a rationale for its eradication. In this way he shows the complexity of a religious institution that could be manipulated to validate two completely differing opinions. Tourgee also sheds light on an inevitable consequence of two similar groups clashing on the same issue. In regards to the opening of schools he writes, “How did the white brothers and sisters of these messengers of a matchless benevolence receive them? Ah, God! how sad that history should be compelled to make up so dark a record--abuse, contumely, violence! Christian tongues befouled with calumny! Christian lips blistered with falsehood! Christian hearts overflowing with hate! Christian pens reeking with ridicule because other Christians sought to do their needy fellows good!” (Item 582). It was no surprise that reactions to the fostering of African American education were hostile. However, it brings in a new element when this hostility is brought by a group who shares the same faith as those promoting education. It continually highlights the idea that even seemingly comparable groups were incredibly different based on whether they lived in the North or the South.