Slavery in South Africa

Religion

The Dutch Reform Church was the only legal church in the colony and was controlled by the VOC. The position of the Dutch Reform Church on slavery was deliberately kept vague to prevent alienating influential slave owners. It was generally understood amongst owners at the Cape that the Church expected that slave children should be baptised and that baptised slaves should not be sold. However, in practice, relatively few slaves were baptised.

 

The Dutch East India company (VOC), however, took its religious obligations seriously. All the slaves in the Slave Lodge were baptised in 1666. Thereafter, all children were baptised within seven days of their birth whether their parents were Christian or not. The VOC considered themselves to be the head of the household, and not the child’s parents. By 1795, a total of 1715 children from the Lodge were baptised. Approximately two thirds of all the slave children who were baptised during the VOC period (1652-1795) lived in the Lodge. All the Lodge children received religious instruction in the Lodge school. Commissioner Adriaan van Rheede stipulated in 1685 that no slave belonging to the VOC may be sold, exchanged or exported. This stipulation was adhered to until the end of the VOC period in 1795. The adults also received Christian instruction. They were taught Christian prayers in Dutch every evening and had to attend church twice on a Sunday.

The Dutch Reformed Church positioned to the right of the Slave Lodge entrance in Peter Laponder's model of the slave lodge (1999) at the end of the 18th century.