Before the Civil War, white American abolitionists established a mission in Jamaica as a “test case” for emancipation. The abolitionists struggled to reconcile their political commitment to egalitarianism with the racial and cultural hierarchies of their civilizing mission. Gale Kenny examines this tension through the lens of a sex scandal that almost destroyed the mission in 1850, as it forced the missionaries and Jamaicans to reconsider their assumptions about racial and religious authority, female morality, and the relationship between sexuality and spirituality. Gale Kenny, ACLS New Faculty Fellow in Religion, is presently beginning work on a project about humanitarianism in British and American antislavery in the 1840s and 1850s.
Sponsored by the Barnard Center for Research on Women