'Let my People Go!': Anglo- American Liberation Theology from the Puritans to the Abolitionists

Professor John Coffey

AHRC Research Leave (£33,943)

September 2010-January 2011

The story of Israel’s Exodus from Egyptian bondage has often inspired radical politics. It is a favourite text of modern liberation theologians, among them the former pastor of President Obama, the Rev Dr Jeremiah Wright Jr. But modern appeals to Exodus are part of an older tradition within English-speaking Protestantism. Oliver Cromwell, William III and George Washington were each hailed as a new Moses long before Martin Luther King declared that he had seen the Promised Land. This project will explore the various ways in which the idea of divine liberation from slavery was used by preachers and activists from John Milton in the Puritan Revolution to Frederick Douglass in antebellum America. It will show how abolitionists and African-Americans took the familiar Protestant rhetoric of deliverance and turned it against the institution of racial slavery.

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