A History of the African American Church

by Carter G. Woodson
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Publisher: Diasporic Africa Press

Publication Date: October 26, 2017

ISBN: 9781937306632

Binding: Kobo eBook

Availability: eBook

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Carter G. Woodson's classic text on the emergence of African American churches, chronicling their story out of the eighteenth-century evangelical revivals and their transformations through the nineteenth and early twentieth century, is important for reasons other than "black church" history. With the exception of recent books, such as C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya's "The Black Church in the African-American Experience," Woodson's text remains one of the best overviews of the topic. But Woodson's text is also a significant account of the ways in which Christian-based instruction and socialization shaped not only class divisions and vetted leadership among, but also shaped who/what became the "Negro/Colored/Black/African American." For even the "Father of Black History," as Woodson is often called, could not escape the spell casted by the prevailing Christian ideology of his time, and in the earlier periods he investigated. In fact, Woodson viewed "Christianity [as] a rather difficult religion for [the] undeveloped mind [of the enslaved African] to grasp," and never questioned this Christianity or probed the African basis of rituals and ideas among the enslaved and the emancipated. Instead, Woodson extols the virtues of Christianity among the converted, and the men who established the various churches in African descended communities, including the educative, social, economic, and political roles played by these institutions after the U. S. Civil War. There is little here about those who adhered to spiritual or religious practices and ideas that remained as close to Africa as possible. For Woodson, then, the ministry was one of the highest callings and occupations to which African American male leaders could aspire, and from which they accrued prominence within their communities at a time when religious instruction was the primary schooling option available. These "educated Negroes," as Woodson called them, were now armed with the Christian religion, ...