In contrast to recent historiography, this work reasserts the argument that slaves were not merely the victims of a brutal regime, but lived largely separate lives within a distinct sphere. This work, set mainly in the South Carolina Low country and on the Georgia Sea Islands, examines the significance of the communal, sacred, ecstatic dances of African-American slaves in the antebellum era. Religious beliefs of the slaves, from Christianity through to shamanism, are analyzed, as are the importance of music, ceremony, and the spiritual world. This book suggests that religious dance ceremonies were central to the lives of the slaves, and acted as a sacrament through which they made contact with their ancestors, the spirit world, and God himself. Communal dancing, under a Christian banner, was a key element in the formation of an autonomous slave culture. This study reasserts the argument that slaves were not merely the victims of a brutal regime, but lived largely separate lives within a distinct sphere.
Dr Thomas' book is a major and arresting contribution to our understanding of antebellum slavery in the Old South.