Modern Racial Categories, American Slave Societies, and the Integration of African Religious Practices into Christianity

A Conversation with Katharine Gerbner, Ph.D.
moderated by Dominique Stewart
free and open to the public


Religion was fundamental to the development of both slavery and race in the Protestant Atlantic world. In this webinar, Katharine Gerbner will give a brief presentation on the origins of modern racial categories, the role of missionaries in creating American slave societies, and the integration of African religious practices into Christianity. Following this, she will be interviewed by Dominique Stewart about these and other issues addressed in her recently published book Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World, which explores the complex connections between Christianity, slavery, and race in early America.

Katharine Gerbner, Ph.D. is McKnight Land Grant Professor and Associate Professor of History at the University of Minnesota, where she teaches courses in early American history, the Atlantic world, religion, the history of race, and global Christianity. Her recent publications in include “Theorizing Conversion: Christianity, Colonization, and Consciousness in the Early Modern Atlantic World,” (2015), “‘They Call Me Obea’: German Moravian Missionaries and Afro-Caribbean Religion in Jamaica” (2015), and Christian Slavery: Conversion and Race in the Protestant Atlantic World (2019). Gerbner earned a Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization and an A.M. in History from Harvard University, and a B.A. from Columbia University. Learn more about Dr. Gerbner’s work at

Dominique Stewart is completing his final year of undergraduate studies at the University of St. Thomas with majors in Actuarial Science and French, and a minor in Interreligious Studies and Comparative Theology. In 2019-2020, Stewart was awarded an Interreligious Research Fellowship from the Jay Phillips Center, in which he examined early encounters between Hindu communities in Jamaica with the early Rastafari movement and their resulting religious exchange. He presented his findings in a paper titled “A Religious Rendezvous: The Encounter of Jamaican Hindus and Early Rastafari” at the Regional American Academy of Religion in 2020. Stewart was again awarded an Interreligious Research Fellowship for 2020-21, during which time he is investigating Caribbean identity through interreligious encounters in West Indian francophone literature.

Sponsored and organized by Jay Phillips Center for Interreligious Studies at the University of St. Thomas and Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning at Saint John’s University with generous support from Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota.