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In Their Own Words

June 06, 1771

Concern for Religious Instruction of Slaves

James Habersham was a prosperous Savannah merchant, additionally owning three rice plantations on the Ogeechee River that encompassed 6,000 acres and required the labor of almost 200 slaves. The following letter from Habersham to London clergyman Cornelius Winter suggests his concern for religious instruction of Georgia’s growing African population:

“… I had raised my expectations of seeing a Church for Africans, and had fixed on you, as the instrument under God, to bring it about, and that you would have been the happy Man to present many of them to your Father and their Father, with, here am I, and the children thou hast given me… . You know however, that there are a few, and of no inconsiderable property, who would be glad to have their Black Servants become fellow Heirs, and partakers with them of an Inheritance undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Is it then possible that the Guardians and Fathers of our excellent Church should refuse Orders to a Man, every way qualified, amply provided for, unexceptionable in his moral Character and heartily desirous from a motive of Love to God, to engage in and promote, so ardous, so painful and difficult a Work as the Conversion of these neglected and benighted people from (what shall I call it) Prejudice… .”

Source: Collections of the Georgia Historical Society, Vol. VI, The Letters of the Hon. James Habersham, 1756-1775 (Savannah, The Georgia Historical Society, 1904), pp. 135-136.