Signs of Grace: Protestant Pro-slavery Rhetoric of Disability in the 19th Century
Keywords:slavery, disability, intellectual disability, rhetoric, theology, 19th century
This archival analysis of 19th-century Protestant pro-slavery rhetoric shows that positive evaluations of disability concealed debilitation practices on plantations. The examination complicates a narrative in disability histories that associates Christian teaching with only a negative evaluation of disability as indexing a state of sin. Instead, the article explains how positive and negative evaluations of intellectual deficiency coalesced within a theological imaginary to shore up white Christian consciences, allowing for and encouraging the violence perpetrated against the enslaved. The article concludes, following Jasbir Puar and Julie Avril Minich, to query whether re-inscribing a positive evaluation of disability does disability justice?
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