Brendlinger travels to Bahamas to speak on the ending of the British slave trade
by Molly Meadows
Despite years of research on the struggle to end slavery, George Fox religion professor Irv Brendlinger’s work never felt as personal as it did in December when he traveled to the Bahamas on the 200th anniversary of the ending of the British slave trade.
At the invitation of a local church, Brendlinger spoke on the antislavery movement at a lecture series in Nassau.
“I have lectured on slavery before, but always to white audiences,” Brendlinger says. “This time I was speaking to actual descendants of slaves … Looking out on a sea of black faces as I described the barbarities of slavery was difficult and moving.”
The lectures, organized by the Nassau Methodist Church, took place Dec. 12-14. In addition to the lectures, Brendlinger also was invited to give the sermon at the local Methodist and Baptist churches. His wife Shirley, a pianist, offered a musical introduction before the lectures and the church services.
Brendlinger’s first lecture portrayed the power, size, and brutality of the slavery “machine” – and how unstoppable it seemed to be. The second lecture focused on John Wesley. Brendlinger traced Wesley’s exposure to slavery in England and in the colony of Georgia and explored the connection between Wesley’s theology and human justice.
After each lecture the question-and-answer times went well over an hour, Brendlinger says. “They were eager to know more about the development of slavery and the slave trade,” he says. “Not only did they ask insightful questions and express appreciation, but some of them shared their own stories about slavery.”
Because many of the Bahamians are descendants of slaves, there was a great deal of national awareness of the anniversary, Brendlinger says. During that week the Bahamas issued new postage stamps honoring both John Wesley and his younger brother Charles.
Brendlinger is the author of two books: Social Justice Through the Eyes of Wesley (Joshua Press), which explores the views of John Wesley on social injustice; and To Be Silent Would Be Criminal: The Life and Antislavery Influence of Anthony Benezet (Scarecrow Press), an overview of the life of a prominent 18th century antislavery advocate.
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