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Church SteepleThe Black pioneers who came to Alberta considered religion an integral of their culture. Many of them had been slaves or were descendants of Black American slaves.

Religion was as important to slaves as it was to Alberta’s Black pioneers. Plantations across the American South introduced slaves to Christian values and beliefs, and, in particular, emphasized the duties and responsibilities of good, Christian slaves. However, many slaves resisted these interpretations and formed their own way of worshipping that included passionate sermons, emotional expressions of spirituality, and services with a strong musical focus. Black gospel music became an important tradition within Black communities both in the United States and in Canada.

Because of their religious preferences, Blacks tended to gravitate to Christian denominations such as the Baptist and Methodist churches that emphasized emotional worship. Thus, when the Black pioneers came to Canada, most of the churches they established in rural and urban areas were either Baptist or Methodist with exclusively Black congregations. Often, these churches were the centre of the Black communities, drawing people together and, through faith, giving them strength to overcome economic and social struggles. In later years, Black churches in Alberta tended to resist political activism in the community because many older church members feared social and political activism would only to serve to break down once favourable race relations.

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            For more on Black settlement in Alberta, visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.

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