Lord God, during this Lenten season, teach us to come before you in humility, lamenting the signs that your kingdom has not yet some in its fullness. Help us to acknowledge our finitude and failings, and guide us into a journey of remembering rightly, repenting honestly, and responding faithfully. We long for the coming of your mosaic kingdom in Jesus Christ, our Lord, and invite your Holy Spirit to lead us now.
THIS DAY IN HISTORY: MARCH 2, 1807
1807 U.S. Congress Bans the Slave Trade Within the U.S.
On March 2nd, 1807, the United States Congress passed an act that banned the slave trade within the U.S by “prohibit[ing] the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States…from any foreign kingdom, place, or country.” The ban legislatively went into effect on January 1, 1808 and was part of a larger trend toward abolishing the international slave trade, which some states had previously restricted during the American Revolution.
While the ban ended the legality of international slave trade with the U.S., it was not well enforced, and slaves continued to be imported in limited numbers into the United States. Moreover, the domestic slave trade within the U.S. was unaffected by the 1807 law. Slavery itself thus continued throughout the Southeastern United States until June 19th, 1865, when the Union soldiers announced the end of the Civil War and declared that the enslaved were now free. This day would come to be known as Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States, and occurred more than two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was initially made.
Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, approximately 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World (according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database). 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America, while between 10-20% of those Africans lost their lives due to the nightmarish conditions of the journey. These enslaved Africans launched modern capitalism in the U.S., and helped make the U.S. one of the wealthiest countries in the world. At the outbreak of the Civil War, the market value of slaves (an estimated $3 billion) was worth more than banks, factories, and railroads combined.
While Christian views on slavery varied based on region, time period, and denomination, many Christian slaveholders cited the Bible as justification for slavery. Such proponents of slavery claimed that it was divinely instituted by God for the good of the slaves because it improved their physical, moral, and intellectual conditions while offering them a chance to convert to Christianity.
SCRIPTURAL REFLECTION: DEUTERONOMY 15:12-15
“12 If any of your people—Hebrew men or women—sell themselves to you and serve you six years, in the seventh year you must let them go free. 13 And when you release them, do not send them away empty-handed. 14 Supply them liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to them as the Lord your God has blessed you. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.”
RESPONSE OF LAMENT AND CONFESSION: Please spend some time in personal response, crying out to God with prayers, poems, songs, or art that expresses your lament and confession. If you feel led, please share these responses with others, using #lentenlament #day2
You may close with the following:
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.
CLOSING PRAYER: A PRAYER FOR THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY (George Lawrence, 1813)
And, O! Thou Father of the universe and disposer of events, thou that called from a dark and formless mass this fair system of nature, and created thy sons and daughters to bask in the golden streams and rivulets contained therein; O! Wilt thou crush that power that still holds thousands of our brethren in bondage, and let the sea of thy wisdom wash its very dust from off the face of the earth; let Liberty unfurl her banners, and let Freedom and Justice reign triumphant in the word, universally. Amen.
-From: Conversations with God: Two Centuries of Prayers by African Americans (edited by Dr. James Melvin Washington)