The Invisible Church – A Place of Refuge for Enslaved Africans

Although many enslaved Africans were converted to Christianity, they were forbidden from worshipping without white supervision.

Black codes, which were laws passed by southern states after the civil war to control freed enslaved Africans, made it very difficult for them to meet and praise how they wanted. 

Despite these obstacles, they still took the risk of gathering for unmonitored worshipping. 

Worship in the invisible church usually consisted of testifying, prayer, singing, and even preaching; many of these characteristics are still seen in modern African American praising. They were very expressive in how they praised. There was clapping, shouting, moving your whole body, and active participation was highly expected from everyone.

It was common to catch the holy spirit in the invisible church when the energy was high and this energy also fueled the length of the service, sometimes going late in the night.  


The invisible church was an important sacred space for enslaved Africans because it provided a manner of worshipping that they could call their own, the ability to worship at their chosen time and place, and most importantly, a safe place where they had the freedom to worship as they pleased and without outside and specifically white interference.  

Negro spirituals were born out of the invisible church and Many spirituals contained double entendres and hidden messages that portrayed the desire of freedom for enslaved Africans. The double meanings in the spirituals provided a way for slaves to sing what they were not able to verbalize out loud around slave masters.  

Some of the hidden messages were about heaven and their longing to go there, hell and the hellish reality of being enslaved, jubilee and the hope of emancipation, and even the heroic figures in the bible which the enslaved Africans hoped to be delivered from enslavement as the biblical figures were.  

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