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Second Great Awakening

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An engraving of a Methodist camp meeting in 1819 (Library of Congress).
An engraving of a Methodist camp meeting in 1819 (Library of Congress).

The Second Great Awakening was a Protestant religious revival during the early 19th century in the United States. The movement began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800 and, after 1820, membership rose rapidly among Baptist and Methodist congregations whose preachers led the movement. It was past its peak by the late 1840s. The Second Great Awakening reflected Romanticism characterized by enthusiasm, emotion, and an appeal to the supernatural. It rejected the skeptical rationalism and deism of the Enlightenment.

The revivals enrolled millions of new members in existing evangelical denominations and led to the formation of new denominations. Many converts believed that the Awakening heralded a new millennial age. The Second Great Awakening stimulated the establishment of many reform movements designed to remedy the evils of society before the anticipated Second Coming of Jesus Christ.[1]

Historians named the Second Great Awakening in the context of the First Great Awakening of the 1730s and 1750s and of the Third Great Awakening of the late 1850s to early 1900s. These revivals were part of a much larger Romantic religious movement that was sweeping across Europe at the time, mainly throughout England, Scotland, and Germany.[2]

New religious movements emerged during the Second Great Awakening, such as Adventism, Dispensationalism, and Mormonism.

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  • ✪ 19th Century Reforms: Crash Course US History #15
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Episode 15 Reform Movements Hi I’m John Green. This is Crash Course U.S. history and today we finally get to talk about sex. Also some other things. Today we’re gonna discuss religious and moral reform movements in 19th century America, but I promise there will be some sex. Mr. Green, Mr. Green. Is it gonna be about real sex or is it gonna be able people who are obsessed with not having sex? You got me there, Me from the Past. But how (and whether) we skoodilypoop ends up saying a lot about America, and also people in general. Intro So, one response to the massive changes brought about by the shift to an industrialized market economy was to create utopian communities where people could separate themselves from the worst aspects of this brave new world. The most famous at the time, and arguably still, were the Shakers, who were famous for their excellent furniture, so you can’t say that they really fully withdrew from the market system. Still Shaker communities did separate themselves from the competition that characterized free markets, especially in terms of the competition for mates. They were celibate, and therefore only able to increase their numbers by recruitment, which was made a little bit difficult by celibacy. But they did do a lot of dancing to sublimate their libidinous urges, they embraced equality of the sexes, and at their peak they had more than 6,000 members. Today, they are still one of the most successful utopian communities to have emerged in the 19th century. They have three members. Much more successful in the long run were the Latter Day Saints, also called Mormons, although at the time their ideas were so far out of the mainstream that they were persecuted and chased from New York all the way to Utah. In addition to the Bible, The LDS Church holds the Book of Mormon as a holy scripture, which tells of the resurrected Jesus’s visits to the Americas. And while it was subject to widespread persecution, and even some massacres, the LDS Church continued to grow, and in fact continues to today. So, while some of these communities were based in religion, others were more worldly attempts to create new models of society, like Brook Farm. Founded in 1841 by a group of transcendentalists, is a dependent clause that always ends in failure, Brook Farm tried to show that manual labor and intellectual engagement could be successfully mixed. This community drew on the ideas of the French socialist Charles Fourier, who as you may recall from Crash Course World History believed—no joke—that socialism would eventually turn the seas to lemonade. And much like Fourier’s planned communities, Brook Farm did not work out, largely because—and I can say this with some authority—writers do not enjoy farming. Nathaniel Hawthorne, for instance, complained about having to shovel horse manure. But if he’d only kept shoveling horse manure, he might not have shoveled The Blithedale Romances onto an unsuspecting reading public. I’m sorry, Nathaniel Hawthorne. I do like The Scarlet Letter, but I feel like the only reason you’re read is because you were, like, the only author in pre-Civil War America. So either we have to pretend that America began with Huck Finn’s journey on the Mississippi or else we’re stuck with you. It was just, like, you, Thomas Paine, Mary Rowlandson, a bunch of printed sermons, and James Fenimore Pooper. Anyway, the most utopian of the utopian communities were set up at Utopia, Ohio and Modern Times, New York by Josiah Warren. Everything here was supposed to be totally unregulated and voluntary including marriage, which, as you can imagine worked out brilliantly. But, without any laws to regulate behavior, Warren’s communities were individualism on steroids, so they collapsed spectacularly and quickly. But these utopian communities were relatively rare; many more 19th century Americans participated in efforts to reform society rather than just withdraw from it. And behind most of those reform movements was religion, particularly a religious revival called the 2nd Great Awakening. This series of revival meetings reached their height in the 1820s and 1830s with Charles Grandison Finney’s giant camp meetings in New York. And in a way the 2nd Great Awakening made America a religious nation. The number of Christian ministers in the United States went from 2,000 in the 1770s to 40,000 by 1845. And western New York was the center of this revivalism. That’s where Joseph Smith had his revelations. It’s also where John Humphrey Noyes founded his Oneida Community, in which postmenopausal women introduced teenage boys to sex, and which eventually ceased being a religious community and evolved into—wait for it—one of the world’s largest silverware companies. That’s right, every time you take a bite of food with Oneida cutlery, you’re celebrating free love and May-December relationships. Well, more like February-December relationships. (Libertage: Turning Free Love into Fancy Forks) So, yes, religious fervor burned so hot in upstate New York that it became known as the “burned-over district,” and New York remains the heartland of conservative Christianity to this day. Or not. The Awakening stressed individual choice in salvation and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and it was deeply influenced by the market revolution. So, like, while many preachers criticized the selfish individualism inherent in free market competition, there was sort of a market for new religions and preachers, who would travel the country drumming up business. Awakening ministers also preached the values of sobriety, industry and self-discipline, which had become the essence of both the market economy and the impulse for reform. There are three points I want to make about the religious nature of all these 19th century reform movements. First, it was overwhelmingly Protestant. Like, all these “new” religions were protestant denominations, which meant that they wouldn’t have a lot of appeal to immigrants from Ireland and Germany who started to pour into the United States in the middle of the 19th century because A. those people were mostly Catholic, and B. reasons we’ll get to momentarily. Secondly, many of these reformers believed in perfectionism, the idea that individuals and society were capable of unlimited improvement. And third, many of the reform movements were based ultimately on a different view of freedom than we might be used to. And this is really important to understand, for 19th century reformers, freedom was the opposite of being able to do whatever you wanted, which they associated with the word license. They believed that true freedom was like an internal phenomenon that came from self-discipline and the practice of self control. Essentially, instead of being free to drink booze, you would be free from the temptation to drink booze. According to Philip Schaff, a minister who came to Pennsylvania in the 1840s, “true national freedom, in the American view [is] anything but an absence of restraint … [It] rests upon a moral groundwork, upon the virtue of self possession and self control in individual citizens.” Members of the fastest growing Protestant denominations like Methodists and Baptists were taught that it wasn’t enough to avoid sin themselves; they also needed to perfect their communities. And that leads us to America’s great national nightmare, temperance. Now you’re not going to see me advocate for prohibition of alcohol, but to be fair, Americans in the first half of the 19th century were uncommonly drunk. In fact, in 1830, per capita liquor consumption was 7 gallons per year, more than double what it is now. And that doesn’t even count wine, beer, hard cider, zima, pruno. By the way, some people like to have home breweries or whatever, but at our office, Stan’s been making pruno under the couch. The growing feeling among reformers that we should limit or even ban alcohol appealed to those protestant ideas of restraint and perfecting the social order. And that’s also precisely why it was so controversial, especially among Catholic immigrants, who A. came largely from Germany and Ireland, two nations not known for their opposition to strong drink, and B. were Catholic and the Catholic church’s morality didn’t view alcohol or dancing as inherently sinful the way that so many Protestant denominations did. And then we have the widespread construction of asylums and other homes for outcasts. Anyone who’s ever done a bit of urban exploring knows that these places were built by the hundreds in the 19th century—jails, poorhouses, asylums for the mentally ill—and while they might not seem like places of freedom, to reformers they were. Remember, freedom was all about not having the choice to sin so you could be free of sin. Bear in mind, of course, that the crusading reformers who built these places usually chose not to live in them. And speaking of places you’re forced to go regardless of whether you want to, the mid 19th century saw the growth of compulsory state-funded education in the United States. These new schools were called common schools, and education reformers like Horace Mann hoped that they would give poor students the moral character and body of knowledge to compete with upper-class kids. And that worked out great. Just look at where we are on the equality of opportunity index. Now, this may seem like an obvious win for all involved, but many parents opposed common schools because they didn’t want their kids getting moral instruction from the government. That said, by 1860, all northern states had established public schools. But they were far less common in the South, where the planter class was afraid of education falling into the wrong hands, like for instance, those of poor whites and especially slaves. Which brings us to abolition. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. Abolitionism was the biggest reform movement in the first half of the 19th century, probably because—sorry alcohol and fast dancing—slavery was the worst. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the only challengers to slavery were slaves themselves, free blacks, and Quakers. But in the early 19th century, colonizationists began to gain ground. Their idea was to ship all former slaves back to Africa, and the American Colonization Society became popular and wealthy enough to establish Liberia as an independent homeland for former slaves. While the idea was impractical, and racist, it appealed to politicians like Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay. And some black people, who figured that America’s racism would never allow them to be treated as equals, did choose to emigrate to Liberia. But most free blacks opposed the idea; in fact in 1817, 3,000 of them assembled in Philadelphia and declared that black people were entitled to the same freedom as whites. By 1830, advocates for the end of slavery became more and more radical, like William Lloyd Garrison, whose magazine The Liberator was first published in 1831. Known for being “as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice,” Garrison once burned the Constitution, declaring it was a pact with the devil. Radical abolitionism became a movement largely because it used the same mix of pamplheteering and charismatic speechifying that people saw in the preachers of the Second Great Awakening, which in turn brought religion and abolition together in the North, preaching a simple message: Slavery was a sin. By 1843, 100,000 Northerners were aligned with the American Anti-Slavery Society. What made the radical abolitionists so radical was their inclusive vision of freedom. It wasn’t just about ending slavery but about equality—the extension of full citizens’ rights to all people, regardless of race. By the way, it was abolitionists who re-christened the Old State House Bell in Philadelphia the “Liberty Bell.” Why does all this awesome stuff happen in Philadelphia? Thanks, Thought Bubble. So, needless to say, not all Americans were quite so thrilled about abolitionism, which is why slavery remained unabolished. Often, resistance to abolitionism was violent—like, in 1838, a mob in Philadelphia burned down Pennsylvania Hall because people were using it to hold abolitionist meetings. And you were doing so well, Philadelphia! A year later, a mob in Alton, Illinois murdered antislavery editor Elijah P. Lovejoy when he was defending his printing press. This was the fifth time, by the way, that a mob had destroyed one of his newspapers. Even Congress got in on the “let’s suppress free speech and the press” act by adopting the gag rule in 1836. The gag rule prohibited members of congress from even reading aloud or discussing calls for the emancipation of slaves. Seriously. And you thought the filibuster was dysfunctional. The best known abolitionist was Frederick Douglass, a former slave whose life story was well known because he wrote the brilliant Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. But he wasn’t the only former slave to write about the evils of slavery: Josiah Henderson’s autobiography was probably the basis for the most famous anti-slavery novel ever, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Uncle Tom’s Cabin sold more than a million copies between 1851 and 1854. And despite the unreadable, heavy-handed prose drenched in sentimentality, the book is a great reminder that bad novels can also change the world, which is why it was so widely banned in the South. But while based on a black man’s story, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was written by a white woman, which shows us that black abolitionists were battling not just slavery but near ubiquitous racism. Like Pat Boone rerecording Little Richard to make it safe for the white kids at the sockhop. They had to fight the pseudoscience arguing that black people were physically inferior to white people or just born to servitude, and they had to counter the common conception—still common, I’m afraid—that there was no such thing as African civilization. Oh, it’s time for the mystery document? The rules here are simple. If I guess the author of the mystery document, I do not get shocked. Let’s see what we got today. “Beloved brethren – here let me tell you, and believe it, that he lord our God, as true as he sits on his throne in heaven, and as true as our Savior died to redeem the world, will give you a Hannibal, and when the Lord shall have raised him up, and given him to you for your possession, O my suffering brethren! remember the divisions and consequent sufferings of Carthage and of Haiti … But what need have I to refer to antiquity, when Haiti, the glory of the blacks and terror of tyrants, is enough to convince the most avaricious and stupid of wretches?” Alright Stan, this is going to take some serious critical thinking skills so let’s break this down. So the author’s clearly African American, and an admirer of the Haitian Revolution, which means this was written after 1800. Plus, he references Hannibal, who Crash Course World History fans will remember almost conquered the Romans using freaking elephants! And Hannibal was from Carthage which, I don’t need to tell you, is in Africa. He also warns that Haiti is the terror of tyrants, referencing the widespread massacring of white people after the revolution. Okay that’s what we know. And now we shall make our guess. Henry Highland Garnett? UGH I HATE MYSELF. It’s David Walker? I’m not gonna lie to you, Stan, I don’t even know who that is, so I probably deserve this. AH! That’s how you learn, fellow students. It’s not about positive reinforcement. It’s about shocking yourself when you screw up. I got a 3 on the AP American History test, so I should know. So black abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, Henry Highland Garnett and apparently David Walker were the most eloquent spokesmen for the ideal of equal citizenship in the United States for black and white people. In his 1852 Independence Day Address. By the way, international viewers, our Independence Day is July 4th, so he gave this speech on July 4th. Frederick Douglass said: “Would you argue with me that man is entitled to liberty? That he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? … There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.” And in the end, the sophistication and elegance of the black abolitionists’ arguments became one of the strongest arguments for abolition. If black people were better off enslaved, and inherently inferior, how could anyone account for a man like Frederick Douglass? Abolitionism—at least until after the Civil War—pushed all other reform movements to the edges. But I just want to note here at the end that it’s no coincidence that so many abolitionist voices, like Harriet Beecher Stowe for instance, were female. And their work toward a more just social order for others transformed the way that American women imagined themselves as well, which is what we’ll be discussing next week. I’ll see you then. Thanks for watching. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. The associate producer is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history teacher Raoul Meyer and myself. And our graphics team is Thought Café. If you have questions about today’s video, you can ask them in comments where they’ll be answered by our team of historians. You can also suggest captions for the libertage. Thanks for watching Crash Course and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome. Gonna hit the globe!


Spread of revivals

Part of a series on
Portrait of John Calvin, French School.jpg
Calvinism portal


Like the First Great Awakening a half century earlier, the Second Great Awakening in North America reflected Romanticism characterized by enthusiasm, emotion, and an appeal to the super-natural.[3] It rejected the skepticism, deism, Unitarianism, and rationalism left over from the American Enlightenment,[4] about the same time that similar movements flourished in Europe. Pietism was sweeping Germanic countries[5] and evangelicalism was waxing strong in England.[6]

The Second Great Awakening occurred in several episodes and over different denominations; however, the revivals were very similar.[4] As the most effective form of evangelizing during this period, revival meetings cut across geographical boundaries.[7] The movement quickly spread throughout Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and southern Ohio, as well as other regions of the United States and Canada. Each denomination had assets that allowed it to thrive on the frontier. The Methodists had an efficient organization that depended on itinerant ministers, known as circuit riders, who sought out people in remote frontier locations. The circuit riders came from among the common people, which helped them establish rapport with the frontier families they hoped to convert.


Postmillennialism theology dominated American Protestantism in the first half of the 19th century. Postmillennialists believed that Christ will return to earth after the "millennium", which could entail either a literal 1,000 years or a figurative "long period" of peace and happiness. Christians thus had a duty to purify society in preparation for that return. This duty extended beyond American borders to include Christian Restorationism. George Fredrickson argues that Postmillennial theology "was an impetus to the promotion of Progressive reforms, as historians have frequently pointed out."[8] During the Second Great Awakening of the 1830s, some diviners expected the millennium to arrive in a few years. By the late 1840s, however, the great day had receded to the distant future, and postmillennialism became a more passive religious dimension of the wider middle-class pursuit of reform and progress.[8]

Burned-over district

In the early nineteenth century, western New York State was called the "burned-over district" because of the highly publicized revivals that crisscrossed the region.[9][10] Charles Finney, a leading revivalist active in the area, coined the term.[11] Linda K. Pritchard uses statistical data to show that compared to the rest of New York State, the Ohio River Valley in the lower Midwest, and the country as a whole, the religiosity of the Burned-over District was typical rather than exceptional.[12]

West and Tidewater South

On the American Frontier, evangelical denominations, especially Methodists and Baptists, sent missionary preachers and exhorters to meet the people in the backcountry in an effort to support the growth of church membership and the formation of new congregations.[citation needed] Another key component of the revivalists' techniques was the camp meeting. These outdoor religious gatherings originated from field meetings and the Scottish Presbyterians' "Holy Fairs," which were brought to America in the mid-eighteenth century from Ireland, Scotland, and Britain’s border counties. Most of the Scots-Irish immigrants before the American Revolutionary War settled in the backcountry of Pennsylvania and down the spine of the Appalachian Mountains in present-day Maryland and Virginia, where Presbyterian emigrants and Baptists held large outdoor gatherings in the years prior to the war. The Presbyterians and Methodists sponsored similar gatherings on a regular basis after the Revolution.[13]

The denominations that encouraged the revivals were based on an interpretation of man's spiritual equality before God, which led them to recruit members and preachers from a wide range of classes and all races. Baptists and Methodist revivals were successful in some parts of the Tidewater South, where an increasing number of common planters, plain folk, and slaves were converted.[citation needed]


In the newly settled frontier regions, the revival was implemented through camp meetings. These often provided the first encounter for some settlers with organized religion, and they were important as social venues. The camp meeting was a religious service of several days' length with preachers. Settlers in thinly populated areas gathered at the camp meeting for fellowship as well as worship. The sheer exhilaration of participating in a religious revival with crowds of hundreds and perhaps thousands of people inspired the dancing, shouting, and singing associated with these events. The revivals also followed an arc of great emotional power, with an emphasis on the individual's sins and need to turn to Christ, and a sense of restoring personal salvation. This differed from the Calvinists' belief in predestination as outlined in the Westminster Confession of Faith, which emphasized the inability of men to save themselves and decreed that the only way to be saved was by God's electing grace.[14] Upon their return home, most converts joined or created small local churches, which grew rapidly.[15]

The Revival of 1800 in Logan County, Kentucky, began as a traditional Presbyterian sacramental occasion. The first informal camp meeting began in June, when people began camping on the grounds of the Red River Meeting House. Subsequent meetings followed at the nearby Gasper River and Muddy River congregations. All three of these congregations were under the ministry of James McGready. A year later, in August 1801, an even larger sacrament occasion that is generally considered to be America’s first camp meeting was held at Cane Ridge in Bourbon County, Kentucky, under Barton W. Stone (1772–1844) with numerous Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist ministers participating in the services. The six-day gathering attracting perhaps as many as 20,000 people, although the exact number of attendees was not formally recorded. Due to the efforts of such leaders as Stone and Alexander Campbell (1788–1866), the camp meeting revival spread religious enthusiam and became a major mode of church expansion, especilly for the Methodists and Baptists.[16][17] Presbyterians and Methodists initially worked together to host the early camp meetings, but the Presbyterians eventually became less involved because of the noise and often raucous activities that occurred during the protracted sessions.[17]

As a result of the Revival of 1800, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church emerged in Kentucky and became a strong support of the revivalist movement.[18] Cane Ridge was also instrumental in fostering what became known as the Restoration Movement, which consisted of non-denominational churches committed to what they viewed as the original, fundamental Christianity of the New Testament. Churches with roots in this movement include the Churches of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada. The congregations of these denomination were committed to individuals' achieving a personal relationship with Christ.[19]

Church membership soars

1839 Methodist camp meeting
1839 Methodist camp meeting

The Methodist circuit riders and local Baptist preachers made enormous gains in increasing church membership. To a lesser extent the Presbyterians also gained members, particularly with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in sparsely settled areas. As a result, the numerical strength of the Baptists and Methodists rose relative to that of the denominations dominant in the colonial period—the Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists. Among the new denominations that grew from the religious ferment of the Second Great Awakening are the Churches of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the Evangelical Christian Church in Canada.[19][20]

The converts during the Second Great Awakening were predominantly female. A 1932 source estimated at least three female converts to every two male converts between 1798 and 1826. Young people (those under 25) also converted in greater numbers, and were the first to convert.[21]



The Advent Movement emerged in the 1830s and 1840s in North America, and was preached by ministers such as William Miller, whose followers became known as Millerites. The name refers to belief in the soon Second Advent of Jesus (popularly known as the Second coming) and resulted in several major religious denominations, including Seventh-day Adventists and Advent Christians.[22]

Holiness movement

Though its roots are in the First Great Awakening and earlier, a re-emphasis on Wesleyan teachings on sanctification emerged during the Second Great Awakening, leading to a distinction between Mainline Methodism and Holiness churches.

Restoration Movement

The idea of restoring a "primitive" form of Christianity grew in popularity in the U.S. after the American Revolution.[23]:89–94 This desire to restore a purer form of Christianity without an elaborate hierarchy contributed to the development of many groups during the Second Great Awakening, including the Mormons, Baptists and Shakers.[23]:89 Several factors made the restoration sentiment particularly appealing during this time period:[23]:90–94

  • To immigrants in the early 19th century, the land in the United States seemed pristine, edenic and undefiled – "the perfect place to recover pure, uncorrupted and original Christianity" – and the tradition-bound European churches seemed out of place in this new setting.[23]:90
  • A primitive faith based on the Bible alone promised a way to sidestep the competing claims of the many denominations available and for congregations to find assurance of being right without the security of an established national church.[23]:93

The Restoration Movement began during, and was greatly influenced by, the Second Great Awakening.[24]:368 While the leaders of one of the two primary groups making up this movement, Thomas Campbell and Alexander Campbell, resisted what they saw as the spiritual manipulation of the camp meetings, the revivals contributed to the development of the other major branch, led by Barton W. Stone.[24]:368 The Southern phase of the Awakening "was an important matrix of Barton Stone's reform movement" and shaped the evangelistic techniques used by both Stone and the Campbells.[24]:368

Culture and society

Efforts to apply Christian teaching to the resolution of social problems presaged the Social Gospel of the late 19th century. Converts were taught that to achieve salvation they needed not just to repent personal sin but also work for the moral perfection of society, which meant eradicating sin in all its forms. Thus, evangelical converts were leading figures in a variety of 19th century reform movements.[25]

Congregationalists set up missionary societies to evangelize the western territory of the northern tier. Members of these groups acted as apostles for the faith, and also as educators and exponents of northeastern urban culture. The Second Great Awakening served as an "organizing process" that created "a religious and educational infrastructure" across the western frontier that encompassed social networks, a religious journalism that provided mass communication, and church-related colleges.[24]:368 Publication and education societies promoted Christian education; most notable among them was the American Bible Society, founded in 1816. Women made up a large part of these voluntary societies.[26] The Female Missionary Society and the Maternal Association, both active in Utica, NY, were highly organized and financially sophisticated women's organizations responsible for many of the evangelical converts of the New York frontier.[27]

There were also societies that broadened their focus from traditional religious concerns to larger societal ones. These organizations were primarily sponsored by affluent women. They did not stem entirely from the Second Great Awakening, but the revivalist doctrine and the expectation that one's conversion would lead to personal action accelerated the role of women's social benevolence work.[28] Social activism influenced abolition groups and supporters of the Temperance movement. They began efforts to reform prisons and care for the handicapped and mentally ill. They believed in the perfectibility of people and were highly moralistic in their endeavors.

Slaves and free Africans

Baptists and Methodists in the South preached to slaveholders and slaves alike. Conversions and congregations started with the First Great Awakening, resulting in Baptist and Methodist preachers being authorized among slaves and free African Americans more than a decade before 1800. "Black Harry" Hosier, an illiterate freedman who drove Francis Asbury on his circuits, proved to be able to memorize large passages of the Bible verbatim and became a cross-over success, as popular among white audiences as the black ones Asbury had originally intended for him to minister.[29] His sermon at Thomas Chapel in Chapeltown, Delaware, in 1784 was the first to be delivered by a black preacher directly to a white congregation.[30]

Despite being called the "greatest orator in America" by Benjamin Rush[31] and one of the best in the world by Bishop Thomas Coke,[30] Hosier was repeatedly passed over for ordination and permitted no vote during his attendance at the Christmas Conference that formally established American Methodism. Richard Allen, the other black attendee, was ordained by the Methodists in 1799, but his congregation of free African Americans in Philadelphia left the church there because of its discrimination. They founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Philadelphia. After first submitting to oversight by the established Methodist bishops, several AME congregations finally left to form the first independent African-American denomination in the United States in 1816. Soon after, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AME Zion) was founded as another denomination in New York City.

Early Baptist congregations were formed by slaves and free African Americans in South Carolina and Virginia. Especially in the Baptist Church, African Americans were welcomed as members and as preachers. By the early 19th century, independent African American congregations numbered in the several hundred in some cities of the South, such as Charleston, South Carolina, and Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia.[32] With the growth in congregations and churches, Baptist associations formed in Virginia, for instance, as well as Kentucky and other states.

The revival also inspired slaves to demand freedom. In 1800, out of African American revival meetings in Virginia, a plan for slave rebellion was devised by Gabriel Prosser, although the rebellion was discovered and crushed before it started.[33] Despite white attempts to control independent African American congregations, especially after the Nat Turner Uprising of 1831, a number of African American congregations managed to maintain their separation as independent congregations in Baptist associations. State legislatures passed laws requiring them always to have a white man present at their worship meetings.[32]


Women, who made up the majority of converts during the Awakening, played a crucial role in its development and focus. It is not clear why women converted in larger numbers than men. Various scholarly theories attribute the discrepancy to a reaction to the perceived sinfulness of youthful frivolity, an inherent greater sense of religiosity in women, a communal reaction to economic insecurity, or an assertion of the self in the face of patriarchal rule. Husbands, especially in the South, sometimes disapproved of their wives' conversion, forcing women to choose between submission to God or their spouses. Church membership and religious activity gave women peer support and place for meaningful activity outside the home, providing many women with communal identity and shared experiences.[34]

Despite the predominance of women in the movement, they were not formally indoctrinated or given leading ministerial positions. However, women took other public roles; for example, relaying testimonials about their conversion experience, or assisting sinners (both male and female) through the conversion process. Leaders such as Charles Finney saw women's public prayer as a crucial aspect in preparing a community for revival and improving their efficacy in conversion.[35] Women also took crucial roles in the conversion and religious upbringing of children. During the period of revival, mothers were seen as the moral and spiritual foundation of the family, and were thus tasked with instructing children in matters of religion and ethics.[36]

The greatest change in women's roles stemmed from participation in newly formalized missionary and reform societies. Women's prayer groups were an early and socially acceptable form of women's organization. In the 1830s, female moral reform societies rapidly spread across the North making it the first predominantly female social movement.[37] Through women's positions in these organizations, women gained influence outside of the private sphere.[38][39]

Changing demographics of gender also affected religious doctrine. In an effort to give sermons that would resonate with the congregation, ministers stressed Christ's humility and forgiveness, in what the historian Barbara Welter calls a "feminization" of Christianity.[40]

Prominent figures

Political implications

Revivals and perfectionist hopes of improving individuals and society continued to increase from 1840 to 1865 across all major denominations, especially in urban areas. Evangelists often directly addressed issues such as slavery, greed, and poverty, laying the groundwork for later reform movements.[1] The influence of the Awakening continued in the form of more secular movements.[41] In the midst of shifts in theology and church polity, American Christians began progressive movements to reform society during this period. Known commonly as antebellum reform, this phenomenon included reforms in against the consumption of alcohol, for women's rights and abolition of slavery, and a multitude of other issues faced by society.[42]

The religious enthusiasm of the Second Great Awakening was echoed by the new political enthusiasm of the Second Party System.[43] More active participation in politics by more segments of the population brought religious and moral issues into the political sphere. The spirit of evangelical humanitarian reforms was carried on in the antebellum Whig party.[44]

Historians stress the understanding common among participants of reform as being a part of God's plan. As a result, local churches saw their roles in society in purifying the world through the individuals to whom they could bring salvation, and through changes in the law and the creation of institutions. Interest in transforming the world was applied to mainstream political action, as temperance activists, antislavery advocates, and proponents of other variations of reform sought to implement their beliefs into national politics. While Protestant religion had previously played an important role on the American political scene, the Second Great Awakening strengthened the role it would play.[1]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Timothy L. Smith, Revivalism and Social Reform: American Protestantism on the Eve of the Civil War (1957).
  2. ^ Christine Leigh Heyrman. "The First Great Awakening". Divining America, TeacherServe. National Humanities Center.
  3. ^ Henry B. Clark (1982). Freedom of Religion in America: Historical Roots, Philosophical Concepts, Contemporary Problems. Transaction Publishers. p. 16.
  4. ^ a b Cott, Nancy (1975). "Young Women in the Second Great Awakening in New England". Feminist Studies. 3 (1): 15. doi:10.2307/3518952. JSTOR 3518952.
  5. ^ Hans Schwarz (2005). Theology in a Global Context: The Last Two Hundred Years. Williamm B. Eerdmans. p. 91.
  6. ^ Frederick Cyril Gill (1937). The Romantic Movement and Methodism: A Study of English Romanticism and the Evangelical Revival.
  7. ^ Lindley, Susan Hill (1996). You Have Stept Out of Your Place: a History of Women and Religion in America. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press. p. 59.
  8. ^ a b George M. Fredrickson, "The Coming of the Lord: The Northern Protestant Clergy and the Civil War Crisis," in Miller, Randall M.; Stout, Harry S.; Wilson, Charles Reagan, eds. (1998). Religion and the American Civil War. Oxford University Press. pp. 110–30. ISBN 9780198028345.
  9. ^ Whitney R. Cross, The Burned-over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New, 1800–1850 (1951)
  10. ^ Judith Wellman, Grassroots Reform in the Burned-over District of Upstate New York: Religion, Abolitionism, and Democracy (2000) excerpt and text search
  11. ^ Geordan Hammond; William Gibson (March 1, 2012). Wesley and Methodist Studies. Clements. p. 32.
  12. ^ Pritchard, Linda K. (1984). "The burned-over district reconsidered: A portent of evolving religious pluralism in the United States". Social Science History: 243–265. doi:10.2307/1170853. JSTOR 1170853.
  13. ^ Kimberly Bracken Long (2002). "The Communion Sermons of James Mcgready: Sacramental Theology and Scots-Irish Piety on the Kentucky Frontier". Journal of Presbyterian History. 80 (1): 3–16.ISSN 0022-3883. JSTOR 23336302. See also: Elizabeth Semancik (May 1, 1997). "Backcountry Religious Ways: The North British Field-Meeting Style". Albion’s Seed Grows in the Cumberland Gap. University of Virginia. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  14. ^ "Religious Transformation and the Second Great Awakening". U.S. History Online Textbook. 2018. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  15. ^ Dickson D. Bruce Jr. (1974). And They All Sang Hallelujah: Plain Folk Camp-Meeting Religion, 1800–1845. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 0870491571.
  16. ^ Douglas Foster, et al., The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement (2005)
  17. ^ a b Riley Case (2018). Faith and Fury: Eli Farmer on the Frontier, 1794–1881. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press. pp. 3–4. ISBN 9780871954299.
  18. ^ L. C. Rudolph (1995). Hoosier Faiths: A History of Indiana’s Churches and Religious Groups. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 117–22. ISBN 0253328829.
  19. ^ a b Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (2004)
  20. ^ Melton, Encyclopedia of American Religions (2009)
  21. ^ Cott (1975), pp. 15–16.
  22. ^ Gary Land, Adventism in America: A History (1998)
  23. ^ a b c d e C. Leonard Allen and Richard T. Hughes, Discovering Our Roots: The Ancestry of the Churches of Christ, Abilene Christian University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-89112-006-8
  24. ^ a b c d Douglas Allen Foster and Anthony L. Dunnavant, The Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Churches of Christ, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0-8028-3898-7, ISBN 978-0-8028-3898-8, 854 pages, entry on Great Awakenings
  25. ^ Elizabeth J.Clapp, and Julie Roy Jeffrey, ed., Women, Dissent and Anti-slavery in Britain and America, 1790–1865, (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2011): 13–14
  26. ^ Barbara Welter, "The Feminization of American Religion: 1800–1860," in Clio's Consciousness Raised, edited by Mary S. Hartman and Lois Banner. New York: Octagon Books, 1976, 139
  27. ^ Ryan, Mary (1978). "A Woman's Awakening: Evangelical Religion and the Families of Utica, New York, 1800 to 1840". American Quarterly. 30 (5): 616–19. doi:10.2307/2712400. JSTOR 2712400.
  28. ^ Lindley (1996), p. 65.
  29. ^ Morgan, Philip. Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry, p. 655. UNC Press (Chapel Hill), 1998. Accessed 17 October 2013.
  30. ^ a b Smith, Jessie C. Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events (3rd ed.), pp. 1820–1821. "Methodists: 1781". Visible Ink Press (Canton), 2013. Accessed 17 October 2013.
  31. ^ Webb, Stephen H. "Introducing Black Harry Hoosier: The History Behind Indiana's Namesake". Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. XCVIII (March 2002). Trustees of Indiana University. Accessed 17 October 2013.
  32. ^ a b Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The 'Invisible Institution' in the Antebellum South, New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 137, accessed 27 Dec 2008
  33. ^ Alan Brinkley, The Unfinished Nation, p 168
  34. ^ Lindley (1996), pp. 59–61.
  35. ^ Lindley (1996), pp. 61–62.
  36. ^ Ryan (1978), p. 614.
  37. ^ "Introduction" in What Was the Appeal of Moral Reform to Antebellum Northern Women, 1835–1841?, by Daniel Wright and Kathryn Kish Sklar. (Binghamton, NY: State University of New York at Binghamton, 1999).
  38. ^ Ryan (1978), p. 619.
  39. ^ Lindley (1996), pp. 62–63.
  40. ^ Barbara Welter, "The Feminization of American Religion: 1800–1860," in Clio's Consciousness Raised, edited by Mary S. Hartman and Lois Banner. New York: Octagon Books, 1976, 141
  41. ^ Barbara Leslie Epstein, The Politics of Domesticity. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1981.
  42. ^ Alice Felt Tyler, Freedom's Ferment: Phases of American Social History from the Colonial Period to the Outbreak of the Civil War (1944).
  43. ^ Stephen Meardon, "From Religious Revivals to Tariff Rancor: Preaching Free Trade and Protection during the Second American Party System," History of Political Economy, Winter 2008 Supplement, Vol. 40, p. 265-298
  44. ^ Daniel Walker Howe, "The Evangelical Movement and Political Culture in the North During the Second Party System", The Journal of American History 77, no. 4 (March 1991), p. 1218 and 1237.

Further reading

  • Abzug, Robert H. Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination (1994) (ISBN 0-195-04568-8)
  • Ahlstrom, Sydney. A Religious History of the American People (1972) (ISBN 0-385-11164-9)
  • Billington, Ray A. The Protestant Crusade. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1938.
  • Birdsall, Richard D. "The Second Great Awakening and the New England Social Order", Church History 39 (1970): 345–364. JSTOR 3163469.
  • Bratt, James D. "Religious Anti-revivalism in Antebellum America", Journal of the Early Republic (2004) 24(1): 65–106. ISSN 0275-1275. JSTOR 4141423.
  • Brown, Kenneth O. Holy Ground; a Study on the American Camp Meeting. Garland Publishing, Inc., (1992).
  • Brown, Kenneth O. Holy Ground, Too, the Camp Meeting Family Tree. Hazleton: Holiness Archives, (1997).
  • Bruce, Dickson D., Jr. And They All Sang Hallelujah: Plain Folk Camp-Meeting Religion, 1800–1845 (1974)
  • Butler, Jon. Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People. 1990.
  • Carwardine, Richard J. Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America. Yale University Press, 1993.
  • Carwardine, Richard J. "The Second Great Awakening in the Urban Centers: An Examination of Methodism and the 'New Measures'", Journal of American History 59 (1972): 327–340. JSTOR 1890193. doi:10.2307/1890193.
  • Cott, Nancy F. "Young Women in the Second Great Awakening in New England," Feminist Studies, (1975), 3#1 pp. 15–29. JSTOR 3518952. doi:10.2307/3518952
  • Cross, Whitney, R. The Burned-Over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800–1850, (1950).
  • Foster, Charles I. An Errand of Mercy: The Evangelical United Front, 1790–1837, (University of North Carolina Press, 1960)
  • Hambrick-Stowe, Charles. Charles G. Finney and the Spirit of American Evangelicalism. (1996).
  • Hankins, Barry. The Second Great Awakening and the Transcendentalists. Greenwood, 2004.
  • Hatch, Nathan O. The Democratization of American Christianity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.
  • Heyrman, Christine Leigh. Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt (1997).
  • Johnson, Charles A. "The Frontier Camp Meeting: Contemporary and Historical Appraisals, 1805–1840", The Mississippi Valley Historical Review (1950) 37#1 pp. 91–110. JSTOR 1888756. doi:10.2307/1888756.
  • Kyle, I. Francis, III. An Uncommon Christian: James Brainerd Taylor, Forgotten Evangelist in America's Second Great Awakening (2008). See Uncommon Christian Ministries
  • Long, Kimberly Bracken. "The Communion Sermons of James Mcgready: Sacramental Theology and Scots-Irish Piety on the Kentucky Frontier", Journal of Presbyterian History, 2002 80(1): 3–16. ISSN 0022-3883. JSTOR 23336302.
  • Loveland Anne C. Southern Evangelicals and the Social Order, 1800–1860, (1980)
  • McLoughlin William G. Modern Revivalism, 1959.
  • McLoughlin William G. Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform: An Essay on Religion and Social Change in America, 1607–1977, 1978.
  • Marsden, George M. The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience: A Case Study of Thought and Theology in Nineteenth-Century America (1970).
  • Meyer, Neil. "Falling for the Lord: Shame, Revivalism, and the Origins of the Second Great Awakening." Early American Studies 9.1 (2011): 142–166. JSTOR 23546634.
  • Posey, Walter Brownlow. The Baptist Church in the Lower Mississippi Valley, 1776–1845 (1957)
  • Posey, Walter Brownlow. Frontier Mission: A History of Religion West of the Southern Appalachians to 1861 (1966)
  • Raboteau, Albert. Slave Religion: The "invisible Institution' in the Antebellum South, (1979)
  • Roth, Randolph A. The Democratic Dilemma: Religion, Reform, and the Social Order in the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, 1791–1850, (1987)
  • Smith, Timothy L. Revivalism and Social Reform: American Protestantism on the Eve of the Civil War (1957)


  • Conforti, Joseph. "The Invention of the Great Awakening, 1795–1842". Early American Literature (1991): 99–118. JSTOR 25056853.
  • Griffin, Clifford S. "Religious Benevolence as Social Control, 1815–1860", The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, (1957) 44#3 pp. 423–444. JSTOR 1887019. doi:10.2307/1887019.
  • Mathews, Donald G. "The Second Great Awakening as an organizing process, 1780–1830: An hypothesis". American Quarterly (1969): 23–43. JSTOR 2710771. doi:10.2307/2710771.
  • Shiels, Richard D. "The Second Great Awakening in Connecticut: Critique of the Traditional Interpretation", Church History 49 (1980): 401–415. JSTOR 3164815.
  • Varel, David A. "The Historiography of the Second Great Awakening and the Problem of Historical Causation, 1945–2005". Madison Historical Review (2014) 8#4 online
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