Lemuel Haynes (1753-1833)
Contributing Editor: Phillip M. Richards
Classroom Issues and Strategies
Lemuel Haynes represents the most complicated African-American response to the strands of evangelical culture and Revolutionary politics of the late eighteenth century and the early nineteenth century. In many respects his work should be read in the context of theological writers such as Jonathan Edwards and political thinkers such as Thomas Jefferson. If America was, at this time, defining itself as a Christian Republican nation, then how did such a definition affect a figure such as Haynes?
Haynes, like Equiano, is a committed Calvinist. He firmly rejects theological innovations, such as Universalism, that were part of the liberalization of Protestant thought in the nineteenth century. What might such a radical Calvinism mean in the hands of a black thinker in the late eighteenth century? How might Revolutionary conceptions of liberty in the period have been informed by Calvinist notions of spiritual liberty?
Haynes's political writing significantly comes before his longer theological efforts. His tract on Revolutionary politics was written before his entrance into the ministry. How might the political ideologies of the Revolution have affected Haynes's later development as a minister?
Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues
We tend to think of the late eighteenth century as an age of politicization and secularization embodied in a figure such as Benjamin Franklin. Religion and theological formulations, however, remained very important for literate blacks such as Phillis Wheatley, Jupiter Hammon, and Haynes. Why is this so? What does their intensely religious emphasis mean for these writers' larger relationship with an emerging American culture?
Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions
Discuss the importance of the sermon form to Haynes. What was the social, political, and even economic function of the sermon during the Great Awakening and Revolutionary periods? How does Haynes draw upon these functions in his own work?
For whom is Haynes's work written? How do his discourse, his language, his themes, and his ideas reflect his chosen audience? What advantages does the sermon form give to a black addressing this audience?
Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections
Haynes grew up in a literary context similar to Wheatley's and Hammon's. Haynes's literary development was shaped by the presence of evangelical groups, patrons, revivalist religion, and Revolutionary politics. All of these themes inscribe themselves on his writing. One might compare Haynes's consciousness of the conditions of his work with that of Wheatley or Hammon.
The best introduction to Haynes is Black Preacher to White America: The Collected Writings of Lemuel Haynes, 1774-1883, edited by Richard Newman. Brooklyn: Carlson Publishing, 1990.