Christianity’s Contributions: Slavery abolished (Part 4)

As we close out this month’s focus on the contributions of Christianity to culture, the abolition of slavery by individuals and the culture at large was due to the Church’s influence.  In the Roman Empire, the Emperor Justinian (527-565 AD) abolished all laws preventing freedom of slaves.

Centuries later, in England, British slavery was nearly gone by the 14th century; however, it returned in the 17th century. Thankfully, William Wilberforce (1759-1833) advocated abolishing slavery in England and its colonies.  He fought for years until the Abolition Act passed in 1833.  By 1840, slavery was ended in all English colonies.  After the removal of slavery in England, the abolition movement continued in America.

American abolitionists were mostly pastors.  Two-thirds were Christian clergy in the 1830’s.  Their leadership inspired others to change the culture and free slaves.  For example, Northern black churches served as stations in the Underground Railroad to aid runaway slaves.  These stations provided comfort, education, and assistance to these former slaves.

Eventually, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached its third year of a bloody civil war. The proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”  What started with the Church had finished with the State–the abolition of slavery.

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