Early American History Seminar: Linford Fisher, Brown University

Early American History and Culture Seminar
Thursday, March 24, 2011

5:30 pm to 7:00 pm

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically.  For a copy of the paper, e-mail the Scholl Center at scholl@newberry.org.  Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.

“ ‘An appearance of vital piety & religion’: New England Natives and the First Great Awakening”
Linford D. Fisher, Brown University

The paper seeks to contextualize in a more nuanced way Native American participation in the First Great Awakening. In some senses, the “conversion” of many Indians in southern New England during the 1730s and 1740s can be seen as a continuation of, not a break with, prior strategies of creative cultural and religious adaptation and survival. Although the Mohegan and other Natives might have initially showed up to view the spectacle of revivalism, many of them soon found in revivalistic evangelicalism creative possibilities for their own communities. The “Indian Great Awakening,” then, while not discounting supernatural explanations or professions of belief given by its participants, was a logical—but not inevitable—result of three prior decades of renewed attempts of the English to evangelize their Native neighbors and the Indians’ increasing attempts to procure for themselves education, literacy, and acceptance into the larger Euroamerican colonial society.