African-American Christians in Colonial America

What are “hush harbors”?

Attempts to maintain segregation in churches during the slavery period led to the establishment of formal black churches. However, informal black churches existed in slave communities in places called “hush harbors,” or “bush harbors,” which were hollows, or other remote and/or inconspicuous places. These places were also called cane breaks, hush arbors, and even praise houses, but certainly they were hidden, secret spots. So secret were these places, including their nature and function, that their true histories, rhetoric, and practices remain difficult to know. It is through oral histories, however, that the insights into hush harbor practices are at least partially known. Here they “broke the prescription against unsupervised or unauthorized meetings by holding their services in secret, well hidden areas.” It is here that slaves met surreptitiously and worshipped God as they pleased, in a tradition of their own, and shared with each other the thoughts and beliefs that their masters never knew they had. Slave preachers led the services.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy African American History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App