Slavery in America is the sin that won’t die.

It just will. not. die.

It won’t die because we won’t let it die.

Now, before your righteous indignation gets triggered, by “die” I do not mean ignore slavery as a historical reality.

The reason slavery in America is history is that slavery in America was once a reality.


But that isn’t the case any longer.

No one in America today, regardless of his or her ethnicity, can be deemed a ‘slave’ in the same sense as the Africans who were brought to these shores against their will beginning the early 1600s.

So, again, yes, slavery was once a reality in America for more than 200 years.


But it isn’t anymore.

So, why can’t we accept that reality for the history it was? Why is slavery the one sin of which some Christians can’t or, perhaps better, won’t, let go? Why is American slavery deserving of such special treatment as to be set aside as the one sin for which the blood of Christ somehow did not atone?

I say ‘American’ slavery because many who insist on resurrecting the sin of slavery in this nation seem to conveniently forget, or ignore, that it wasn’t white Americans who first enslaved black Africans but black Africans who first enslaved black Africans.

For centuries prior to the Atlantic slave trade, slavery was practiced by indigenous peoples in Africa. Slavery was intrinsic to the African kinship structure. There was chattel slavery, domestic slavery, debt slavery (called ‘pawnship’ from which the contemporary idea of ‘pawn shops’ is derived). There was military slavery, as well as sacrificial slavery in which slaves were offered as human sacrifices during tribal religious rituals.

These are historical facts.

And I haven’t even mentioned the Arab slave trade which, at its peak, shipped upwards of 10,000 Africans per day along the Red Sea to countries in the Middle East.

That said, the intent of this post is not to offer an exhaustive treatise on the genesis of slavery, either in Africa or America, but to highlight the hypocrisy of Christians who would treat slavery in America as if it were some kind of unique phenomenon or experience.

It wasn’t.

Black Africans were selling and trading their own people for hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of years before the first African slave landed in Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. And yet, many Christians, particularly black Christians, act as if this history never happened; that the only slavery that ever existed what the enslavement of black people in America by white people.

There are several questions I have for those who might hold to that line of thinking, and they are these: What is your purpose or objective in continuing to resurrect the history of slavery in America? What is it you want and from whom do you want it? Do you want reparations? Is that it? If yes, from whom do you seek it – from the ancestors of those who owned slaves or from the government who allowed such an institution to persist for so long? In either case, how much reparations would be enough? What, if anything, will satiate your indignation over the reality that slavery occurred in America so that you will be content to once and for all put it to rest (if that’s even possible)? In other words, what atonement will suffice for you to place the sin of slavery at the foot of the cross of Christ with all the other sins for which His sacrificial death atoned?

“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that He might bring us to God.” – 1 Peter 3:18a

The ‘unrighteous’ for whom Christ died includes the repentant slaveholder.
As such, you have no right to continue to resurrect the sins of anyone whose sins were paid for by Christ on the cross.

Tell me, which of your innumerable sins would you like for God to resurrect and prosecute you?

Name one. Just one.


Slavery is history, yes, but it is not unique to white people. Black people were enslaving each other long before a white person ever stepped foot on the continent of Africa. So, stop with the selective hypocrisy and leave the sins of slavery to a sovereign and righteous God who will one day not only judge those who participated in and profited from it but who, in His sovereignty, allowed slavery to exist in the first place.

“God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man, for a time for every matter and for every deed is there.” – Ecclesiastes 3:17


Darrell Bernard Harrison
Darrell B. Harrison is a 2013 Fellow of the Black Theology and Leadership Institute (BTLI) of Princeton Theological Seminary, and is a 2015 graduate of the Theology and Ministry program at Princeton Theological Seminary. Harrison's undergraduate studied included majoring in Psychology with a specialization in Christian Counseling at Liberty University. Harrison has a particular passion for seeing expository preaching become the standard within the Black Church.

4 Comments to: Slavery: The Sin that Will Not Die in America

  1. Avatar


    February 18th, 2018

    Thank you, brother, for this very insightful and honest article. There are so many sins done across the world to so many. The most vulnerable, children, are usually the victims. The evil nature that resides in each of us is to blame. It is the reason God himself had to intervene. We are all in the sinking boat together, and cannot rescue ourselves. Can we forgive each other as Christ forgives us? When will Christians really show the world the love of Christ, and be one, as Christ prayed we would be? He does not judge me by the color or my skin, only the thoughts and intentions of my heart. I pray your words do not fall on deaf ears or are only read by blind eyes.

  2. Avatar


    April 3rd, 2018

    This article is misleading. Throughout history there have always been nations who practiced slavery. You were right to describe Africa as a continent which practiced slavery, but you left-out the fact that Europeans also enslaved each other. The form of slavery you are referring to in Africa was not a form of macroslavery as observed in the U.S. It was not institutionalized slavery with macro economic benefits. The slavery that took place in Africa was only condoned and performed by demographically small group of outliers, and by rare minorities across the spectrum. Many Africans fought and refused the practices of slavery, witchcraft and human sacrifices, but you chose to omit that from your article. You made it seem as if slavery was, at some point in time, institutionalized in Africa, however that remains false. Africans never accepted slavery in the same manner it was approved in the United States. Slavery in the U.S was disproportionally condoned by a vast majority of Southern States and state representatives. I understand your need to try and make yourself feel better, but there is no comparison between institutionalized slavery and what a small group of outliers did in various segments of Africa. – Thanks

    • Avatar

      Helen Louise Herndon

      January 31st, 2020

      Your response smacks of Critical Theory. Do you really think he has not delved into slavery. For you to say it was practiced only by a minor demographic of outliers is not accurate. And what he did not cover is the fact that there were thousands upon thousands of black slave owners in the United States as well. Over 3,000 in the city of New Orleans alone, and the wealthiest slave owner with the most slaves in Louisians was a black slave owner. Over 20,000 slaves were owned by blacks in the Carolinas. These facts were discovered by black historians and scholars. It was reported that their slaves were beaten. raped, bitten, starved, and poorly clad. Slavery and racism are sins, and sin is universal to mankind as the depravity of mankind is universal. You are painting a false picture. African chieftains sent emissaries to the capitals of Europe begging them not to abolish the slave trade. We have gone too long teaching history that fails to paint an accurate picture of American slavery. Besides blacks owning slaves, five American Native tribes also owned black slaves and refused to free them after the Civil War. They were forced to when signing a treaty with the United States. Fortunately, in all races there are those who prefer truth and accuracy to bias and prejudice.


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