Religious Freedom in Colonial America

What Does Religious Freedom Mean to You?

A right to choose and practice our beliefs is one that we take for granted in America today. Those rights were not always guaranteed in colonial America.

While practitioners of non-Christian beliefs weren't persecuted, their faiths were often denigrated. African religious beliefs and practices were subordinated. Slave owners did not encourage their bondsmen's tribal religious practices, for example, and regarded them as "superstitions." While members of different religions wanted to evangelize African slaves and convert them to Christianity, many slave holders expressed apprehension about conversion. They feared bondsmen would use their newly-acquired knowledge and literacy to strive for freedom.

This brief, virtual exhibit will provide an overview of religious freedom in colonial Pennsylvania and viewpoints of some of the founding fathers that led to the religious freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


William Penn
Absalom Jones
Richard Allen
George Washington
Bishop William White
Thomas Jefferson
Charles Carroll
Benjamin Franklin
Charles Thomson
Joseph Brant/Thayendanegea
Isaac Franks

Last updated: September 19, 2015

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