Jones, Absalom. A Thanksgiving Sermon, Preached January 1, 1808, in St. Thomas's, or the African Episcopal Church, Philadelphia: on Account of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade, on That Day, by the Congress of the United States. Philadelphia, PA: Fry & Kammerer, 1808.
PHS Call number: PAM E 185.18 .J66 1808
See especially pages 10-20.
Absalom Jones (1746-1818) was born to enslaved parents in Delaware and became the first African American ordained Episcopal priest at age 56. Jones taught himself to read at a young age and was manumitted when he was nearly 40. After gaining his freedom, Jones and his friend Richard Allen both served as lay ministers at St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia until the church decided to segregate its African American and white churchgoers, demanding that African Americans sit further away from the minister in the upper balconies. As a result, Jones and Allen led a walkout of all the African Americans in the congregation. A year later, in 1792, Jones and Allen co-founded First African Church in Philadelphia and applied for its acceptance into the Episcopal Church, on the condition that Jones would serve as its minister and that it would have control over its internal affairs. Jones and Allen’s church was accepted into the Episcopal Church and was renamed the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. Jones delivered this sermon on the first day of 1808 in honor of the end of the African slave trade in the United States.
1. Who is the intended audience of this source? When was the source written, and what was the historical context?
2. How does Jones describe slavery in North America (pages 11-13)? What effect does this description of slavery at the beginning have on the rest of the sermon?
3. For what political victories against slavery does Jones express gratitude in this sermon (pages 13, 14)?
4. Jones proposes a reason why God may have allowed Africans to be captured and sold into slavery (page 18). What is the reason? Is it likely Jones’s congregation would agree with this idea?
5. Why does Jones compare his fellow African Americans to the Jews whom God ordered “never to forget their humble origin” (page 17)? What conduct does Jones expect from African Americans as a result of this humility (pages 17, 18)?
6. Though Jones expresses gratitude to the states that have already abolished slavery (page 15), why does he not promote the nation-wide abolition of slavery in this sermon?