Season 2, Episode 3
Freedom of the Soul but Not the Body
By Casey Landolf
The Moravians during this time were primarily concerned with “bringing people to salvation through an awareness of Christ,” and that in the world, there was only the saved and unsaved, “a condition upon which skin had no bearing;” however, Moravians also had “little inclination to challenge the ways race was being used to construct massive social inequalities in the emerging Atlantic world,” because they were not really concerned with race as a worldly concept. They denied race in the spiritual realm but affirmed race in the physical world.
Within a few years of establishing Bethabara, the Moravians in Wachovia began renting and purchasing enslaved labor. During the first years of the establishment of Wachovia, everyone was educated together and worshipped side-by-side. In the last quarter of the 1770s, especially after the American Revolution, many Brethren began seeing land and enslavement “as their ticket to prosperity,” and segregation within the Wachovia community became more prominent in the community in the 1800s.
Announcer/Reader 1: James Landolf
Reader 2: Maggie Pelta-Pauls
Transcript for Freedom of the Soul but Not the Body
Announcer: This is Moravian Mornings, a podcast discussing the history of the Moravians who settled in Wachovia.
Casey: Good morning. This week’s episode is going to be heavier compared to previous episodes. We are going to be discussing some Moravian ideology on slavery and enslavement in Wachovia. We have primarily kept our research within the 1700s. This is a very difficult topic for many to discuss and to learn about, but we feel it is important to discuss all aspects of history. This is going to be a lot of information, and we are going to try to present it as clearly as we can. When speaking about the history of enslavement in Wachovia, our intention is not to romanticize anything. Almost all Black Moravians were enslaved. They were second-class members of the Unity, who did not own their own bodies.
Kait: We are going to present the information that we found as best and as sensitive to the subject matter as we can. A lot of this information can be found in the Records of the Moravians in North Carolina, and this is where we looked to find information regarding enslavement in Wachovia. I also want to mention the records we are looking at from the Records of the Moravians in North Carolina were written by Moravians, and we did our best to look at these records from all perspectives so that we could present this information as best as we can. This information is crucial to the understanding and development of Wachovia, and we are glad that we are able to discuss some of this history. Grab your coffee, and let’s get started.
Casey: The community’s acceptance of enslavement is clearly contradictory to the Moravian Church doctrine. Historian Jon Sensbach notes in Race and the Early Moravian Church: A Comparative Perspective that “they were not interested in the physical aspects of racial identity,” and that “they paid no attention to scientific attempts to quantify external and irrelevant markers of human existence such as mere skin color or hair texture.” The Moravian Church was primarily concerned with “bringing people to salvation through an awareness of Christ,” and that in the world, there was only the saved and the unsaved, “a condition upon which skin color had no bearing.” These things carved the Moravian approach to race in two ways: the first being that because everyone had a soul worthy of salvation, the Moravian “church’s universal approach to conversion” stood at a time when many Protestants saw that having darker skin “reflected a dark soul.”  The second is that the Moravians in the 18th century had “little inclination to challenge the ways race was being used to construct massive social inequalities in the emerging Atlantic world,” because they were not really concerned with race as a worldly concept.
They believed in a social hierarchy, where there is a lower rung of servants and enslaved workers. Specifically, Count Zinzendorf believed that this hierarchy was a part of God’s order. When addressing a group of enslaved men and women at a Moravian mission in Saint Thomas in 1739, the Count stated that God “made everything himself-kings, masters, servants, and slaves. And as long as we live in this world, everyone must gladly endure the state into which God had placed him.” He also stated during this address that enslavement was God’s punishment for them, making reference to the Biblical story of Ham. The 18th century Moravian Church used these things to rationalize that the life of servitude was the rightful place for African and Afro-Caribbean people. So, race was denied in the spiritual realm by the Moravians, because “race did not exist in matters of the soul,” but race was affirmed in the physical world by the agreement that it was ok to enslave those of a darker skin color solely because of the color of their skin, which is clearly contradictory. So, 18th century Moravians were invested in the freedom of the soul but not in the freedom of the body. Now that we’ve briefly discussed some of their views regarding race, let’s discuss some history in Wachovia.
Kait: Within a few years of the Pennsylvania settlements being established in the early 1740s, and Bethabara in 1753, church leaders began renting and buying enslaved people “to supplement their labor force.” We briefly mentioned Johann Samuel in a previous episode. Johann Samuel was the first enslaved person purchased by the Moravians in Wachovia. This was in 1769. Before this, the Moravians rented enslaved people from their neighbors. In 1763, Brother Gammern hired an enslaved woman to work as a maid in the Tavern at Bethabara. To my knowledge, this is the first mention of Moravians renting enslaved labor in Bethabara. Her name was Franke, and we know little about her story. Following the Moravians’ choice to rent Franke, the Moravians continued renting enslaved labor. Sometime between 1763 and 1769, Sam was rented by the Moravians, and he became the first enslaved worker purchased by the Moravians in Bethabara, and he would be given the name Johannes/Johann Samuel after being baptized. The Moravians consulted the Lot about purchasing Sam, with a yes being drawn. They also had to go through the supervisory board to receive permission to sell and buy enslaved individuals, but some decisions were made without the board’s approval.
Because these enslaved people were not Moravian, this meant that the Moravians would be working and living with strangers, non-Moravians. The Church had a long-held concern thinking that strangers could negatively influence Moravians. This also led to the Church itself in most cases, rather than individuals, purchasing enslaved people. Some people were also able to purchase enslaved individuals. More people would continue to be purchased by the Moravians after Johannes/Johann Samuel, Sambo and Frank being the next two men. This period, so 1760s, 1770s, is during the time where much of Wachovia is being developed. Bethabara is obviously one of the towns developing, but there is also Bethania, Salem, Friedland, Friedberg, and Hope. The Moravians said during this time that they only had two enslaved workers, which was half true. They owned two enslaved workers, but they were renting enslaved labor, and, as we see in the records, they are purchasing them more frequently beginning during this time frame.
Casey: Enslaved peoples were assisting with, from what I’ve seen, the development of at least Salem, Hope, and Friedberg, and probably in the other towns as well. Though the Moravians did do work themselves, the characteristics of a frontier area and the prevailing shortage of labor, according to Philip Africa, “argued against the exclusion” of enslaved workers. There were unskilled jobs that were designated to be filled by enslaved labor, such as care for animals, duties in the tavern, and, later, work in the tanyards and mills of Salem. If an enslaved person or white Moravian were to disobey the rules or step out of line in the community, they would be punished, but these punishments were obviously different. A white Moravian could be expelled from the church, or they could even choose to leave if church officials didn’t approve of their decisions, and they would decide where they went from there. An enslaved person could be physically punished, such as being whipped, separated from their loved ones, or sold to another enslaver. The records show portions of the stories of Caesar and Jacob, two enslaved men in Wachovia:
Caesar had, according to the Moravians, “behaved very badly,” so he was whipped and sent away. He worked at a still-house for almost a month before he was allowed to return to the tavern, where I’m assuming he worked with his wife. Though it is not mentioned what Caesar did, it could be that he and his wife had a domestic dispute.
The Moravians state in volume II of the records that Jacob “expressed a wish to become a Christian” in 1775, and he was received into the Congregation in 1776. After a few years living in Bethabara, Jacob sought freedom, escaping from the community. It is noted in the records that he fled “to escape punishment for his bad conduct of various crimes.” He would be caught and brought back. The diarist noted that “Jacob is full of wickedness and malice, and we will try to sell him and the sooner the better.” His story in Bethabara ends with him being sold to a Mr. Lanier in the fall of 1779.
Kait: Briefly mentioned in episode 1 of season 1, the enslaved population of Bethabara could receive an education if their parents belonged to the Moravian Church or if their Moravian enslaver wished for them to attend school. They were educated alongside the white Moravian children, worshipped together in church services, and they were buried alongside each other in Bethabara’s God’s Acre. However, as it gets later in the 1700s, into the 1800s, things start to change. Before we discuss this, I want to point out a difference between the North Carolina Moravian community and the Pennsylvanian Moravian community. The Moravians in Pennsylvania had started buying enslaved people around Bethlehem’s founding in the early 1740s, which we stated earlier. However, things evolved differently there than in Wachovia. By the end of the 18th Century, Wachovia and the Pennsylvanian Moravian settlements were going in opposite directions. I’m not entirely sure of the reasoning, but the church in Pennsylvania began emancipation of their enslaved people beginning in the 1760s, so around the time that Bethabara began renting enslaved labor and purchasing their first enslaved men and women.
So, as the Pennsylvanian settlements were phasing out enslavement, enslavement in Wachovia was growing, especially after the American Revolution. Many Brethren began seeing land and enslavement “as their ticket to prosperity,” and with the increasing of the enslaved population in Wachovia, the tension between spiritual freedom and bodily servitude increased. Brethren began finding it awkward to worship alongside those who they enslaved, and this is when segregation within the Wachovia community started coming in. You can actually see this in a series of entries in the Moravian records. I’m going to briefly go over these entries. 1797, when a Black girl entered the Older Girls’ Choir for the first time, the white Moravian girls stood up and left. 1808, a Black couple was inducted into the Bethania congregation. Their meeting was private as the Moravians saw it “not seemly” to give the couple “the kiss of peace in a public service.” The next year, the Elders ruled that Black brethren would be banned from foot washings. 1815, they were banned from being buried in Salem’s God’s Acre. 1822, the church set up a separate congregation, removing them entirely from predominantly white congregations. Early Moravians and those enslaved were all welcome to worship in the same church, but “in about a generation’s time” you see these racial divisions developing.
Casey: You can even see this in some of the burial practices in the community. Leland Ferguson in his work God’s Fields: Landscape, Religion, and Race in Moravian Wachovia presents a a pattern that suggests that by around 1777, the Brethren understood that their white non-Moravian neighbors did not want their loved ones and friends to be buried alongside Black individuals, as in the case of Kathy, an enslaved, unmarried, woman who passed away in September of 1777. She was a Christian, but she was not a Moravian. I’m going to do my best to present this information as best I can. It was a lot, and I found myself having to reread sections. You can always read Ferguson’s book, God’s Fields, to read more about this.
So, of the two locations she could have been buried during this time, the Strangers’ Cemetery in Bethabara and the Strangers’ Cemetery in Salem, she ultimately was not buried in either and was buried in Salem’s congregational God’s Acre in an isolated location away from the Single Sisters. Based on the information that Ferguson presents, this decision was based on race and religion. In regards to the Strangers’ Cemetery in Bethabara, Ferguson states that “records show no black interments in the Bethabara’s Strangers’ God’s Acre.” The Brethren felt that Kathy’s burial would not be welcome in their cemeteries for strangers in Wachovia, and specifically in regard to Salem’s Strangers’ Cemetery, burying Kathy there would have made that graveyard racially integrated, and that “the record of interments in the well-established Bethabara’s Strangers’ God’s Acre suggests that this was not acceptable.”
As for the religious part of this, again, Kathy was not a Moravian, so the congregation felt uncomfortable burying a non-Moravian beside a Moravian in the congregational God’s Acre. He also discusses Bethania, which “became second only to Salem among the Wachovia towns in terms of wealth as well as the community with the largest number”of enslaved people and enslavers. According to Ferguson, Bethania and the surrounding farms had more enslaved people working on them than any other place in Wachovia, but there are no Black individual graves in the town’s congregational God’s Acre. In the early 1800s, Bethania began burying strangers locally. They set up two graveyards, one for white individuals and another for Black individuals. This book by Ferguson is a fascinating source, and I really recommend checking it out. I learned a lot from it.
Kait: To learn more about this history, you can visit Historic Bethabara Park and Old Salem. Old Salem actually has this initiative called “Hidden Town Project,” where their goal is to “research and reveal the history of a community of enslaved and free Africans and African Americans who once lived in Salem, North Carolina.” You can read more about the stories of enslaved people who lived and worked in Bethabara at the park’s website, historicbethabara.org. The park’s exhibit is currently available to view digitally on the website, and there is a section dedicated to discussing this history.
Casey: You can also read more about Old Salem’s Hidden Town Project on their website, oldsalem.org. Old Salem also just recently released this walking tour titled “Salem Pathways.” Go to Old Salem’s Historic District, scan a QR code, and you can follow interpretations of the lives of some Salem residents, one of the residents being Sambo, later given the name Abraham, who was one of the first enslaved men purchased by the Moravians. Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode of Moravian Mornings. We’re really glad that we were able to present some of this history. Join us next week for our last episode! Thanks for listening.
Announcer: This has been an episode of Moravian Mornings, a Historic Bethabara Park podcast. Thank you so much for listening. Auf Wiedersehen.
 Jon Sensbach, “Race and Early Moravian Church: A Comparative Perspective,” Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society 31, (2000), 7.
 Ibid., 2.
 Jon Sensbach, A Separate Canaan: The Making of an Afro-Moravian World in North Carolina, 1763-1840 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 33-34
 Jon Sensbach, A Separate Canaan; Danial Thorp, The Moravian Community in Colonial North Carolina: Pluralism on the Southern Frontier.
 Ibid., 3.
 Ibid., 6.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I: 1752-1771 (Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Print Company, 1922), 385.
 Ibid., 274.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I. 385, 430.
 Ibid., 385, 430,446.
 Philip Africa, “Slaveholding in the Salem Community, 1771-1851,” The North Carolina Historical Review 53, (1977), 276.
 *For example, Traugott Bagge
 Jon Sensbach, A Separate Canaan, 72-73.
 Philip Africa, “Slaveholding in the Salem Community, 1771-1851,” 276.
 Thinking of the married couple from season 1, episode 2.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians, Volume III, 1334.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I, 331; Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume II: 1752-1775 (Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Print Company, 1925), 858; Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians, Volume III, 1043, 1068, 1085.
 Ed. Adelaide Fries, Records of the Moravians, Volume III, 1311.
 Ibid., 1313.
 Jon Sensbach, A Separate Canaan, 124,135.
 Jon Sensbach, “Race and Early Moravian Church,” 6.
 Ibid., 8.
 Jon Sensbach, “Race and Early Moravian Church,” 8, 10 (note 11); Aeltesten Conference (Elders’ Conference), May 3, 1797, March 16, 1808, Sep. 16, 1809; Aufseher Collegium (Board of Overseers), Oct. 2, 1816; Report of the Directors of the Female Mission Society in Salem, Feb. 14, 1822, Diary of the Small Negro Congregation in and around Salem, 1822-1842, all in Moravian Archives, Southern Province
 Leland Ferguson, God’s Fields: Landscape, Religion, and Race in Moravian Wachovia (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2011), XIV.
 Ibid., 85-88.
 Ibid., 115.
Africa, Philip. “Slaveholding in the Salem Community, 1771-1851.” The North Carolina Historical Review 54, no. 3 (July 1997): 271–307.
Sensbach, Jon. A Separate Canaan: The Making of an Afro-Moravian World in North Carolina, 1763-1840. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.
Sensbach, Jon. “Race and the Early Moravian Church: A Comparative Perspective.” Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society 31 (2000): 1–10.
Ferguson, Leland. God’s Fields: Landscape, Religion, and Race in Moravian Wachovia. 1st ed. Cultural Heritage Studies. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2011.
Fries, Adelaide, ed. Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume I: 1752-1771. Vol. I. Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Print Company, 1922.
Fries, Adelaide. Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume II: 1752-1775. Vol. II. Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Print Company, 1925.
Fries, Adelaide. Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume III: 1776-1779. Vol. III. Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton Print Company, 1926.
Fries, Adelaide. Records of the Moravians in North Carolina. Volume VII: 1809-1822. Vol. VII. Raleigh, NC: State Department of Archives and History, 1947.
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