Jamestown, Quebec, Santa Fe: Three North American Beginnings

WEB RESOURCE This exhibition, from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, explores the international origins of the societies of Canada and the United States. The materials look at the settlement, history, culture, spiritual life and more of both the settlers and the native peoples who lived in these almost simultaneously established colonies.

Only in America: The Story of American Jews

RADIO DOCUMENTARY AUDIO CDs ONLY IN AMERICA is an 8-part radio documentary on the history of American Jews, 1654-2000. Performers include: Elie Weisel, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg John Lithgow, Jon Stewart, Mel Brooks, Jerry Stiller, Philip Roth, Zero Mostel and many others. More than three hundred and fifty years ago, in September 1654, twenty - three impoverished Jews arrived by ship in New Amsterdam after having been expelled from Recife, Brazil. Disc one is for colonial times.Other discs fit with other topics in American history.

Religion in Early Virginia

WEB RESOURCE This essay outlines key ideas on the issue of religion in colonial Virginia including: the law mandated Virginians worship in the Anglican Church, the Church was supported by tax dollars, the line between religious and civil authority was blurred, the struggle for religious freedom paralleled struggle for political independence, Virginians not tolerant of non-Christian religions, and white women were primary guardians of family religious life.

Smallpox and the Covenant

PODCAST This Colonial Williamsburg podcast features historian Tony Williams talking about his book The Pox and the Covenant: Mather, Franklin, and the Epidemic That Changed America's Destiny that focuses on the clash between religion and science in 18th c. Boston. When small pox broke out in Boston in 1721, Cotton Mather supported smallpox eradication through vaccination when others believed that the pox was God's way of punishing people for sins. Recorded July 13, 2009.

Patrick Henry on Religion

PODCAST Patrick Henry was a strong believer in the need for established Christian religion in order for the peaceful management of the state. Patrick Henry's passionate beliefs come alive through Richard Schumann's interpretation of his views on the Colonial Williamsburg website. Recorded April 20, 2009.

Meet Gowan Pamphlet, Slave Preacher

PODCAST Colonial Williamsburg interpreter James Ingram talks about the life and beliefs of the enslaved African American tavern worker as Gowan Pamphlet, part time preacher. Born at the right time, this revolutionary figure was an electrifying force who challenged the Christian ideas of the Anglican Church after hearing the powerful preaching of George Whitfield and Presbyterian Samuel Davies. Access from audio and/or download a transcript.

Religion and the Congress of the Confederation

WEB RESOURCE This Library of Congress exhibit includes an introductory piece with a set of primary sources. The documents demonstrate the initial state support of some religious groups and the gradual shift toward separation of church and state.

America as a Religious Refuge: The Seventeenth Century

WEB RESOURCE This Library of Congress page in Religion and the Founding of the Republic puts the founding of the 13 colonies in the religious historical context of the persecutions that followed the 16th-17th c. religious wars in Europe.

Religion in Eighteenth-Century America

WEB RESOURCE This Library of Congress page in Religion and the Founding of the Republic traces the religious development of 18th c. America. All are based on primary sources related to the Anglican and protestant faiths, deism, and the Great Awakening.

Religion and the American Revolution

WEB RESOURCE Some late 18th c. religious leaders played a major role in the American Revolution by offering a moral sanction for opposition to the British. As a recent scholar has observed, by turning colonial resistance into a righteous cause, and by crying the message to all ranks in all parts of the colonies, ministers did the work of secular radicalism and did it better. The Revolution split some denominations like the Church of England, whose ministers were bound by oath to support the King, and the Quakers, who were traditionally pacifists.

Never Turn Back: Father Serra's Mission by James J. Rawles

BOOK This biography of Serra paints a sympathetic portrait of the priest but also looks at the impact of his work in founding the California missions on Native American lives. Raintree-Steck Vaugh, 1993. Grades 4-8

Pioneer Jews: A New Life in the Far West by Harriet and Fred Rochlin

BOOK This book traces the story of the Jewish experience in America from their first arrival in 1654 to the early 20th c. There are biographical sketches of significant people. Houghton Mifflin, 2000. HS and adult

Religion and Witchcraft in Colonial America

VIDEO John Demos, Professor of History Emeritus at Yale and the author of several books on early America and witchcraft, discusses the role of religion and witchcraft during the Colonial Era. He places the Salem Witch Trials in context and presents a larger picture of how early Americans viewed the spiritual world and their place in it. Recorded June 27, 2008 for Gilder Lehrman. Length: One hour.

William Penn: Visionary Proprietor

WEB RESOURCE This historical article by Tuomi J. Forrest for the Crossroads American history curriculum. It describes the founding of Pennsylvania by William Penn and the influence it and Quaker ideas had in early American society.

Surprising Religious Diversity of America's 13 Colonies

ACADEMIC ARTICLE by J.S. Marcus This History Channel background piece describes the variety of religious faiths and philosophies, and denominations in the 17th and 18th centuries. This diversity results in conflicts in the various colonies. Leading builders of a nation built on the unification of the colonies tended toward Enlightenment philosophies to avoid what seemed to have been never ending religious wars in Europe.

Puritanism and Predestination

WEB RESOURCE This Divining America page by Christine Heyrman guides teachers in explaining the complex idea of predestination, a key component of Puritan theology. Puritan membership was limited to the "visibly godly," meaning those men and women who led sober and upright lives. Calvin taught that God, in his infinite mercy, would spare a small number of "elect" individuals from the fate of eternal hellfire that all mankind, owing to their corrupt natures, justly deserved. That elect group of "saints" would be blessed, at some point in their lives, by a profound sense of inner assurance that they possessed God's "saving grace." MS - HS

Salem Witch Trials

Primary sources provide details the narratives of popular, textbook history often neglect. In this video segment, historian Elizabeth Reis analyzes testimony from the Salem Witch Trials, looking at what both confessions and denials say about religious and social norms among the Massachusetts communities involved. MS-HS

Religion in Africa: Common Themes

WEB RESOURCE This section of the PBS website entitled This Far by Faith, shows the relationship between African beliefs and how enslaved people developed the strength to cope with oppression from coming to America until 1775.

Famous American Trials: Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692

WEB RESOURCE From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft; dozens languished in jail for months without trials until the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts subsided. This Famous Trials site by Douglas Linder provides primary sources of testimony, petitions and much more to understand the issues in depth.

Religion in Early Virginia

WEB RESOURCE This Colonial Williamsburg resource provides background on how the established Anglican church worked in colonial Virginia.

Dissent in Massachusetts Bay

WEB RESOURCE There was not too much room for religious disagreement in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Puritans defended their dogma with uncommon fury. Their devotion to principle was God's work; to ignore God's work was unfathomable. When free-thinkers speak their minds in such a society, conflict inevitably results. This overview links to resources about Roger Williams, Anne Hutchinson, Thomas Hooker and Mary Dyer.

California Missions, 1780-present

WEB Resource Establishing religious authority to convert Native Californians to Catholicism was central to Spanish colonization. Spain's 21 California missions stretched along the El Camino Real route linking San Diego to Sonoma. This mission system was established in the late 18th century, largely under the guidance of Father Junipero Serra. Serra, a politically powerful Franciscan priest, personally founded nine missions, expanding the system into Alta California.The text is relatively short and there are many images of the missions themselves and more information on individual missions.

The Bloody Tenent of Persecution

PRIMARY SOURCE A Plea for Religious Liberty is drawn from The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution (1644) by Roger Williams. This document outlines the reasons that it is essential for all people to have liberty of conscience. Bloody Tenent is a fierce attack on religious and political intolerance in both England and New England. One can see his arguments re-emerge over 100 years later in Madison's arguments for religious liberty that became part of the US Constitution/Bill of Rights.

Great Awakening Comes to Weathersfield, Connecticut: Nathan Cole's Spiritual Travels

PRIMARY SOURCE In the 1730s and 1740s many rural folk rejected the enlightened and rational religion that came from the cosmopolitan pulpits and port cities of British North America. Instead, they were attracted to the evangelical religious movement that became known as the Great Awakening. The English Methodist George Whitefield and other itinerant ministers ignited this popular movement with their speaking tours of the colonies. This is a primary source account from Nathan Cole.

"A Devil to Tempt and a Corrupt Heart to Deceive," John Dane Battles Life's Temptations

PRIMARY SOURCE Born in England, John Dane and his Puritan family emigrated to Ipswich, Massachusetts, in the late 1630's. Like many Puritans he was raised to carry what historian Philip Greven calls an "inner disciplinarian" within his conscience at all times. Dane's mother taught him: "Go where you will, God will find you out." In this narrative, Dane relates the temptations he faced over the course of his life and how he applied her warning. (spelling updated)

"As They Had Been in Ancient Times"- Pedro Naranjo Relates the Pueblo Revolt, 1680

PRIMARY SOURCE In the late 17th-century, Spain's empire in the Americas extended north to New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and California, where Spanish soldiers, settlers, and missionaries began to settle. The missionaries resettled the indigenous Pueblo people into peasant communities, building forts and missions to subdue and convert them to Catholicism. The New Mexico Pueblo people resisted Spanish conversion efforts and forced labor demands. Their sporadic resistance became a concerted rebellion in 1680 under the leadership of El Pope. The revolt was the most successful Native American effort to turn back European colonists, and for over a decade the Pueblos were free from colonial intrusion. But in 1690 the Pueblos were weakened by drought and Apache and Comanche raiders from the north. Spain retook territory and interrogated and punished the rebels in their "reconquest" of the Pueblo. A Keresan Pueblo man called Pedro Naranjo offered his view of the rebellion and its causes.

"Whom I Must Join"- Elizabeth Ashbridge, an 18th-Century Englishwoman, Becomes a Quaker

PRIMARY SOURCE Elizabeth Ashbridge (1713-1755) began life as a vivacious girl with a "wild and airy" temperament and ended it as a sober Quaker. Born in England, Ashbridge eloped at fourteen and was widowed five months later. After rejection by her family and a three-year visit with relatives in Ireland, she sailed for America as an indentured servant, arriving in New York in July, 1732. This selection from her autobiography begins as Ashbridge sets out from her home in Long Island to visit relatives in Philadelphia. By then she had undergone an intensely felt spiritual search and had married her second husband, a teacher with a penchant for violence and drink. Ashbridge's dispute with her second husband over her Quakerism ended only with his enlistment in the army and subsequent death. She married a third time, to a Quaker named Aaron Ashbridge, and died while visiting Quakers in England and Ireland.

"The Pulpit Being My Great Design" : A Minister in Early 18th-Century New England

PRIMARY SOURCE This primary source reveals the tensions in the late 18th c. between a religious and an Enlightenment view of the world. Eighteenth-century New Englanders increasingly found themselves living within the imperial context of the European wars and Enlightenment ideas that flowed across the Atlantic. John Barnard, the long-time minister of Marblehead, Massachusetts, was influenced by those ideas. While Barnard held traditional providential beliefs in God's responsibility for events, his life history also revealed an increasing layer of newer scientific beliefs and values.


PRIMARY SOURCE Law and custom in 17th c. New England gave male property owners authority over the women, children, and other dependents of their families. Women who spoke up or stood out merited suspicion, and many were accused, prosecuted, and occasionally executed for the crime of witchcraft. Women could be excommunicated, as Ann Hibben was in 1641, for "usurping" her husband's role, or, as Anne Yale Easton was in 1644, for expressing "unorthodox opinion." During the notorious Salem Village trials of 1692, magistrates put credence in rampant accusations of witchcraft by hanging 19 people, fourteen of them women. Anne Hutchinson, a prominent Boston woman, was tried and banished from Massachusetts in 1637 after attracting a religious following and "casting reproach upon the faithful Ministers of this Country." Although Hutchinson was never accused outright of being a witch, the delivery of a deformed, stillborn infant to one of her female associates in 1638 was interpreted by the Puritan fathers as the Devil's work. This illustration from an eighteenth-century chapbook (a cheaply printed pamphlet) presented a "monstrous" birth as a sign of witchcraft.

The Maryland Toleration Act 1649

PRIMARY SOURCE The Maryland Toleration Act of 1649 did not bring religious freedom, as is sometimes assumed. It did try to solve a problem of conflict between two groups of Christian settlers Catholics and Protestants.

Excerpts from Massachusetts Body of Liberties 1641

PRIMARY SOURCE (Excerpt) The Massachusetts Body of Liberties was the first legal code established by European colonists in New England. It was one of the earliest protections of individual rights in America.Compiled by the Puritan minister Nathaniel Ward, the laws were established by the Massachusetts General Court in 1641.

Letters Between Thomas Jefferson and the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptists (1802)

PRIMARY SOURCES This entry includes both the letter from the Danbury Baptist congregation to Thomas Jefferson and his answer. It is a good source for learning about his interpretation of what the Founders considered was the meaning of the Establishment Clause.

Jefferson, Religion, and the Public Schools

WEB RESOURCE This is an excerpt from Constitutional scholar Leonard Levy's book "Jefferson and Civil Liberties: The Darker Side." It looks at Jefferson's views on the role of religion in pubic education.

Native American Heritage of Los Angeles

WEB RESOURCE The Native American Heritage of Los Angeles When the Spanish explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo arrived in what was to become Los Angeles in 1542, his ship anchored off Santa Catalina Island where it was greeted by a large canoe filled with Indian people who called themselves kumi.vit, and who would later be identified as the Gabreleno/Gabrielino-Tongva. The Gabreleno-Tongva occupied the area as well as the four southern Channel Islands. There were about 50 permanent villages in the area (some sources indicate that there may have been as many as 100 villages), each with 100 to 300 inhabitants.

African American Religion

PODCAST When people from various regions of Africa were forcefully transported to the colonies, they brought nothing with them but the clothes on their backs and the beliefs of their hearts. This latter possession varied widely by region and tradition, but was to each a fundamental part of daily life. Presenter is Historian Harvey Bakari.

Converting California: Indians and Franciscans in the Missions by James A. Santos

BOOK James A. Sandos, an eminent authority on the American West, traces the history of the Franciscan missions from the creation of the first one in 1769 until they were turned over to the public in 1836. Addressing such topics as the singular theology of the missions, the role of music in bonding Indians to Franciscan enterprises, the diseases caused by contact with the missions, and the Indian resistance to missionary activity, Sandos not only describes what happened in the California missions but offers a persuasive explanation for why it happened.

Junipero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary by Rose Marie Beebe and Robert M. Senkewicz

BOOK In Junipero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary, Beebe and Senkewicz focus on Serra's religious identity and his relations with Native peoples. They intersperse their narrative with new and accessible translations of many of Serra's letters and sermons, which allows his voice to be heard in a more direct and engaging fashion.

California Missons - E-Books

E-BOOKS This is a set of electronic and audio books about the Mission in California and their history. They do provide perspectives from both the missionaries and the native peoples. Students would have to sign in (free) to access the books that are posed at this site. If that would be a problem for, even without the sign in, readers are directed to nearby school and public libraries that have the books.

Anne Hutchinson - Religious Dissenter

VIDEO Anne Hutchinson is a key figure along with Roger Williams in making the concept of religious liberty part of America. As you watch this video lecture by Tom Richey, identify what Ms Hutchinson did that came to be accepted as part of accepted social values or the concepts of religious liberty in the US law today.