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By the Rivers of Water: A Nineteeenth-Century Atlantic Odyssey [Audiobook] [Englisch] [Audio CD]

Erskine Clarke , Be Announced To


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Kurzbeschreibung

8. Oktober 2013
In early November 1834, an aristocratic young couple from Savannah and South Carolina sailed from New York and began a strange seventeen year odyssey in West Africa. Leighton and Jane Wilson sailed along what was for them an exotic coastline, visited cities and villages, and sometimes ventured up great rivers and followed ancient paths. Along the way they encountered not only many diverse landscapes, peoples, and cultures, but also many individuals on their own odysseys--including Paul Sansay, a former slave from Savannah; Mworeh Mah, a brilliant Grebo leader, and his beautiful daughter, Mary Clealand, at Cape Palmas; and King Glass and the wise and humorous Toko in Gabon. Leighton and Jane Wilson had freed their inherited slaves, and were to become the most influential American missionaries in West Africa during the first half of the nineteenth century. While Jane established schools, Leighton fought the international slave trade and the imperialism of colonization. He translated portions of the Bible into Grebo and Mpongwe and thereby helped to lay the foundation for the emergence of an indigenous African Christianity. The Wilsons returned to New York because of ill health, but their odyssey was not over. Living in the booming American metropolis, the Wilsons welcomed into their handsome home visitors from around the world as they worked for the rapidly expanding Protestant mission movement. As the Civil War approached, however, they heard the siren voice of their Southern homeland calling from deep within their memories. They sought to resist its seductions, but the call became more insistent and, finally, irresistible. In spite of their years of fighting slavery, they gave themselves to a history and a people committed to maintaining slavery and its deep oppression--both an act of deep love for a place and people, and the desertion of a moral vision. A sweeping transatlantic story of good intentions and bitter consequences, By the Rivers of Water reveals two distant worlds linked by deep faiths.
-- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Gebundene Ausgabe .

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America "If Seamus Heaney digs with his pen, Erskine Clarke casts his like an expert fly fisherman. In this book, By the Rivers of Water, chapters end with sharp forebodings of what lurks around the next bend... Right when we find ourselves comfortable..., Clarke casts his line into deeper and darker waters." Thomas Kidd, Patheos "Remarkable... Clarke is one of the most gifted historians of American religion, with particular mastery of the antebellum southern Christian mind... Clarke probes deeply and sympathetically into the culture of the Africans whom the Wilsons were seeking to evangelize, and does not shy away from addressing the sometimes brutal realities of both American and African societies in the nineteenth century." Dallas Morning News "[An] engrossing, elegantly written history...[Clarke] deserves another Bancroft for By the Rivers of Water, a memorable book." Religion In American History "Erskine Clarke may very well be the best writer of narrative working in American religious history." Library Journal, starred review "Brimming with insights about interconnected individuals, peoples, and societies struggling with conscience and dignity to make moral choices amid clashing, if not collapsing, worlds, this work is required reading for anyone interested in a sympathetic understanding of early U.S. missionaries in West Africa, the perils of the U.S. colonization movement, Civil War tensions, or Atlantic world connections." Publishers Weekly "An original history that tells the engrossing story of two white missionaries and their often stormy relations with their mostly black fellow countrymen, against the background of America descending into Civil War." Kirkus "A sinuously nuanced pursuit of a Southern Christian missionary couple's conflicted journey from slaveholding Savannah, Ga., to West Africa. In the thoroughgoing fashion of his Bancroft Prize--winning Dwelling Place (2005), religion historian Clarke devotes enormous care to delineating every aspect of the world known to his protagonists: Jane Bayard, from Savannah, and John Leighton Wilson, from Black River, S.C... A florid yet thorough and compelling history of missionary work and the 19th-century African-American experience both in America and abroad." Booklist "Clarke offers a complex portrait [of] the countervailing forces of the nineteenth century as America grappled with the profound contradictions of slavery." Robert Harms, Yale University, author of The Diligent: Worlds of the Slave Trade "This is Atlantic history at its best. The missionary travels of John Leighton and Jane Wilson open a window onto one of the major contradictions in the nineteenth-century Atlantic world, where slave ships from Africa crossed paths with ships carrying freed American slaves back to Africa. Such contradictions were reflected in the internal struggles of John Leighton Wilson himself, who freed his own slaves in Georgia and fought a twenty-year battle against the slave traders on the coast of Africa, but still found his loyalties strangely torn by the American Civil War. We hear the voices of white and black missionaries, African American settlers, and African chiefs and merchants, all bound together in their quest to create a new kind of community based on freedom and their Christian faith." Lacy Ford, University of South Carolina, author of Deliver Us From Evil: The Slavery Question in the Old South "A worthy successor to his award-winning Dwelling Places, Erskine Clarke's By the Rivers of Water tells an epic tale of the nineteenth-century white Protestant mission to Africa and its relationship to issues of slavery and the slave trade in the United States. The primary protagonists in Clarke's compelling narrative are two well-born white southerners, John Leighton Wilson and his wife Jane Bayard Wilson, who possessed intimate first-hand knowledge of American slavery, and whose discomfort with slavery helped guide them to missionary work. With a rarely-matched sensitivity and unsurpassed knowledge of his subject, Clarke has written a must-read account of the effort to Christianize both recently colonized ex-slaves from the United States and native African tribes on that continent's west coast. Clarke has given us a riveting story that not only places the white missionary effort in the broadest possible perspective but also reveals how much white Americans contested and contorted views of slavery and racism in the antebellum republic. With this volume, Clarke enhances once again his stature as a pre-eminent historian of American religion and American slavery." Jacqueline Jones, author of Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow "With a novelist's dramatic flair, Erskine Clarke examines a group of American Protestant missionaries who, in the 1830s, made the arduous journey to West Africa, where they sought to evangelize among various indigenous groups. In the process these Americans had surprising encounters with coastal merchants, African-American colonists, and traffickers in slaves. By the Rivers of Water seamlessly blends the history of religion, slavery, African colonization, and the South Carolina and Georgia Lowcountry to give us a compelling account of transatlantic connections among people and ideas; in the process this finely wrought story illuminates the complex political forces that shaped both the United States and West Africa." Dan Carter, University of South Carolina, author of Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South "Erskine Clark's By the Rivers of Water rescues the story of protestant missionaries in Africa before the Civil War from what has often been a historical footnote. Clarke has written a riveting account of missionaries John and Jane Wilson and their encounters with the indigenous people of west Africa and with free African Americans seeking escape from American slavery and racism. And in giving voice to their beliefs, hopes, and fears, he has created a remarkable window into many of the central struggles of nineteenth-century America." -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Gebundene Ausgabe .

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9 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A life of contradictions 7. Oktober 2013
Von David Wineberg - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
While very much the story of Christian Missions to Africa, and the spread of Christianity in Africa, the contradictions, both inherent and imposed, become the real central character of Erskine Clarke's biography of Leighton and Jane Wilson.

Our heroes are classically in denial of who they are: wealthy, entitled liberal patrons. Stateside, while declaring their anti-slavery stance, they debate whether their slaves have it within them to exist without their beneficent patronage. This despite the fact the slaves know and practice all the trades, build their own communities, and put up with incredible brutality of their enlightened masters. Then, when the Wilsons go to West Africa where ex-slaves are setting up colonies, they must ignore the constant passage of overloaded slaveships, carrying millions more bewildered natives to Cuban and Jamaican sugar plantations, American cotton and tobacco farms, and lifelong misery. The missionaries also have to ignore the natives' own established religions and customs as they try to convert them to Christianity. Even when they do, the Africans don't abandon their ways. They simply incorporate Christianity into their culture. The willful blinkers of the missionaries is stunning; they did great work despite their inner conflicts.

To their credit, they quickly understood that American ex-slaves would not naturally mix with native Africans, and that there would be trouble between them. They also realized the "colony" had no legal authority, and that their Mission should be as far away as possible from it. After seven years, it got so bad they moved to another country, Gabon, to get away from the colonists, who were treating the natives just like the Americans treated native Americans. They had vigilante gangs who would do credit to the Klan. They were also trading with the slavers, which thoroughly disgusted the missionaries. They were creating an authentic copy of the USA in Africa. But then, it turns out the basis for this entire adventure was racist all along.

Their sponsor, the American Colonization Society and its state offshoots were secretly all about "whitening" America. They received state funding to help control and reduce the number of blacks in the states. When the number of blacks increased anyway, it caused exposure, a scandal, reduction in funding, and repercussions in the colonies. It was all about getting blacks out of the USA, nothing more. For a sincere Christian missionary, this took some rationalizing.

With the Wilsons back in the USA, the Civil War broke out, and they were torn between taking a stand, defending their southern homeland and being religiously apolitical. It was one thing to be against slavery, but quite another to go to war to enforce it. Leighton left his New York position in the Presbyterian Church, moved back to the south to help found the Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of America, which by definition was politically motivated and defined, and against the principles of universal Christianity. Then after the war, he had to fight the invasion of the northern division of his (former) church, as well as blacks fleeing in entire congregations to create their own churches.

Meanwhile in Liberia, the natives had learned from their Western missionaries and organized armies to battle the American colonists - singing Christian hymns as they marched. In the mission schools, black teachers received less pay than whites, despite repeated inquiries and protests - which were simply ignored. This eventually led to a split and a new church in Gabon.

The Wilsons were absolutely the ideal couple for the job. They both wanted it passionately, were willing to put up with all the rigors and challenges of darkest Africa, were enormously patient and flexible, and schooled whole generations, whose parents knew the value of foreign languages and customs - in advance. Leighton Wilson's priority was to master local languages, while Jane promoted English. Leighton created alphabets and dictionaries, and translated scriptures. He became as much an ethnographer as a missionary, publishing his works to great acclaim. But he was justifiably torn by what he was doing. Wherever they went, they did good work, but they also sowed the seeds of future unrest and endless struggle in a land already reeling from the bad influence of European slavers. These went from rum to syphilis to torture, and much in between.

One of the Wilsons' greatest successes was with an ex slave named BVR James. They encouraged him, educated him and trained him, and he became the printer for their works in Africa, publishing tens and hundreds of thousands of pages a year in Liberia. He went on to government positions, recognition and respect. His perception of the whole contradiction is eloquent: "How true it is, the greater the injury done to the injured, the greater the hatred of those who have done the injury!"

David Wineberg
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Review of By the Rivers of Water by Douglas M. Carpenter 8. November 2013
Von Douglas Carpenter - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
In addition to By the Rivers of Water being a compelling story, it is a very important book about human nature and the power that cultures and environments have upon it. It also brings much understanding of the Atlantic Highways of the 19th century, race relations, slavery, missionary activity, and the Civil War. Erskine Clarke has a very sensitive and engaging style of writing. - Douglas M. Carpenter
4 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Fascinating Look at an Important Period of American History 1. November 2013
Von Maxine McLister - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
In 1836, John Leighton Wilson and his wife Jane Bayard volunteered to serve as missionaries in West Africa. Both were from prosperous southern families and both owned slaves. Yet, as staunch Presbyterians, they felt it was their duty to bring Christianity to Africa. They first went to Maryland in Liberia, a settlement of free blacks from the United States. The settlement was backed by the American Colonization Movement whose purpose was to aid free African Americans to return to Africa. The Colonization Movement was not an Abolitionist Movement; rather their goal was to maintain Maryland's `whiteness'.

The purpose of the Missionary Societies, however, was to minister to the African peoples. When friction arose between the settlers and the native Africans, Leighton found himself often in the middle of the frey but his sympathies were almost always on the side of the native Africans. The African Americans had absorbed western values which often clashed with those of the native Africans, especially on issues like land and property rights.

The Wilsons wished to free their own slaves. However, under Georgia law, if a slave was freed, they had to leave the state. Many slaves were married to others on other plantations and, if they left, they would have to leave their families behind. The decision was finally made to allow the slaves the choice. They could come to Liberia, move to another state, or choose to remain a slave but with the option to take their freedom later. Most chose to move to Liberia.

Underneath the Wilsons' actions, however, was a strong seam of racism. When problems arose in Maryland in Liberia, for example, they blamed it on the fact that the Colonization Movement had appointed a `coloured man' as governor. Later, when they were forced to return to the US for health reasons, they opposed the Southern demand for the reintroduction of the international slave trade but considered the election of Abraham Lincoln a sign of northern aggression against the south. When the southern states seceded and Fort Sumter was fired on signaling the beginning of the Civil War, they returned to Georgia to support the Confederacy. When the southern Presbyterian churches decided to also secede from the north and to put forward their declaration that slavery was not in opposition to the word of God, Leighton was one of the signers. Despite his opposition to the international slave trade, Leighton believed that southern whites 'understood' African Americans and their needs and that it should be left up to the southern states to decide how best to deal with the issue of slavery without interference from the north.

By the Rivers of Water is a beautifully crafted history of the times with all of its contradictions. Author Erskine Clarke is a Theological historian and he handles all of these contradictions with sensitivity. He recognizes that the people about whom he writes were products of their time while never apologizing for their actions or beliefs. For anyone with an interest in history, this is an elegantly written, well-researched and well-documented portrayal of an important period in American history.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen An historical account of the missionary endeavors of Leighton and Jane Wilson 1. Februar 2014
Von Heidi'sbooks - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Right off the bat I want to say that this is a 5 star book. I've never seen or read anything like it. Seriously, it's almost a new genre. It is a history book; it's a missionary biography; it's micro-history; it's expansive history. I've read a lot of missionary biographies; I've read a lot of history books; but I've never read the two genres so closely intertwined.

Clarke wrote a densely-written, historical account of the missionary endeavors of John Leighton and Jane Wilson into West Africa. That's the framework of the book, but it is also an historical documentation of the African-American colonies in Liberia and Gabon, the Gullah people on the coast of Georgia, the beginnings of African-American churches in South Carolina, and an historical look at the Atlantic highway in the years immediately preceding and during the Civil War. Absolutely fascinating.

Leighton and Jane both came from large plantation and slave owning families in the deep south. This is their story of how they came together, and how Jane established schools in Africa, while Leighton fought the International Slave Trade and colonization, and translated portions of the Bible into Grebo and Mpongwe. However, when the Civil War started Leighton and Jane moved to the south to stand with their family.

The author takes Leighton to task for departing from his moral vision after the Civil War. I probably would have cut him more slack. Given the fact that Leighton's family were plantation owners, he had to overcome a lot of cultural biases against going to Africa in the first place. Schools and reading were against the law for slaves, yet he gave his life to those tasks. I guess we all wish that the Civil War didn't produce so much bitterness in the aftermath.

This book shows incredible scholarship and documentation. Nearly every paragraph references letters, books, historical societies, Colonization Papers, court records, archives of churches, etc.

Highly recommended.

Pages: 378, plus 50 pages of documentation
Author: Erskine Clarke
Published: Basic Books, October 2013
7 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen "Mystery of good intentions and cruel consequences." 8. Oktober 2013
Von Amelia Gremelspacher - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
This book serves as a dazzling exposition into the ubiquitous stains of slavery upon people of good intent from both races. Central to the story are the lives of John Leighton Wilson and Jane Bayard Wilson who together undertook a missionary voyage to Western Africa. This was the land known as Liberia and designated by Americans as a free African homeland for former slaves. Both Leighton and Jane owned slaves, had fortunes based on slavery, and believed the institution to be wrong.

But this couple were blind to the labors of those who served them. They were supremely naive in their view of the lack of religion in Africa. Both they and their Black counterparts had little awareness of their own assumptions on the superiority of Christianity and western style civilization.

The author, however, has made every effort to meticulously present both viewpoints of each interaction. He presents those subtle influences of language and assumption from the slave culture of the Gullah, in the lowlands of America, to the world of the Grebo and Mpongwe in would be Liberia. He picks up the juxtaposition of the fluid religious view of the Africans meeting the missionaries in 1832 to the doctrine based view of their would be "saviors". As one king in Africa notices, where Americans land, trouble follows. His prose is literate and flowing. The author presents complex material without bogging down the passage of the story.

One can only read this discourse with an eye within. Leighton and Jane had the best of intents, but cultural blindness often tripped them despite their earnest efforts to the contrary. Little has changed in the wages of entitled spoilage of other countries and the wretched mess left from colonizing one world from another. Even without this insight, the richness of the scholarship renders this a book to embrace. I was given a copy to review from Netgalley with no obligation, but I would buy it readily.
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