In this episode of Ben Franklin’s World, Liz Covart had historian Jessica Parr on to discuss her book Inventing George Whitefield: Race, Revivalism, and the Making of a Religious Icon.” The two discussed Reverend George Whitefield and his role in shaping the religious landscape of America. George Whitefield was an angelical minister who was originally from England and brought revivalism to North America as his mission. George Whitefield was an “American colonial rock star” as the two went on to describe him. Whitefield traveled all over the colonies delivering his own sermons. These typically happened outside in large areas. What made him a “rock star” was the size of crowds that he attracted. The two discussed how there are multiple accounts of there being thousands of people attending these sermons. One account that they talked about which I found particularly funny for some reason is that people would climb on each other in order to see into church windows while these sermons were going on. They also discussed Whitefield’s stance on slavery which is something that he criticized and defended. He saw slavery as something hat helped poverty in Georgia. The left off with talking about how Whitefield is still a staple for protestants today.
To be honest, I enjoyed this podcast a lot more than I originally thought I would. I’m glad that I switched to this one because George Whitefield and the First Great Awakening has also been something that I found interesting. I agree with the two when they called Whitefield a “rock star.” Whenever I was learning about the Great Awakening and especially George Whitefield, I always pictured in as celebrity status of his day. Some of the pictures that depict the Great Awakening solidified this for me as well. Just the thought of thousands of people gathering in place to hear this one person is very Justin Bieber.
Throughout the entire podcast, I kept our class and media and communications in the back of my mind in order to make connections. Obviously, Whitefield and the Great Awakening happened before the time period that we are currently focusing on in class, but the time period that we are discussing is a tie of high communication and technology. When thinking about early American communication, George Whitefield’s story makes sense. During this time, 1730s-1750s, the only way to communicate was by letters, at least privately that is. The best way for Whitefield to get his message across was for him to either publish his sermons, which he did do, or to have people come and attend his sermons in person. Though, the whole point of revivalism and the Great Awakening was the conversion process, so that would give people more of a reason to publicly attend these sermons.
The fact that Whitefield was an important religious figure during this time also plays into why his sermons ere important. The northeast was a very religiously centered society during the early colonial years. So this just increased Whitefield’s popularity and the amount of people reading and attending his sermons.
I really did enjoy this podcast, though I found them discussing the events of Whitefield’s life in order rather than analyzing, but I guess that makes sense as the book is Inventing George Whitefield. I have always found this topic interesting and I’m glad that I was able to find connections of the topics we are learning in class to this topic. Even though I personally wasn’t able to find too many connections, I’m sure that there are many more connections to be made. I look forward to Liz Covart’s visit very much.
LINK TO PODCAST: http://www.benfranklinsworld.com/025/