About the discipline
The World Black Experience is inextricably tied to religion in the U.S., Africa and throughout the Diaspora – from indigenous religious practices, to ancient Ethiopian Christian churches and Christian evangelization in Africa in recent centuries, to the growth of Islam in Africa and the role of Christianity and Islam in the lives of those of African descent in the United States.
Most current growth in Christianity, from evangelical Protestantism to Mormonism to Anglicanism, is in the southern hemisphere, particularly Africa. African churches tend to be theologically conservative and will have an impact on the future direction of these faiths. Some believe Christianity in Africa is a holdover from an imperialist era. Others see it as authentically African, combining Christian beliefs with the worldview and culture of traditional African religions. More than 10 percent of the population in parts of Africa practices indigenous religions, which impacts how Christianity and Islam are practiced, including conservative doctrine, openness to supernatural ideas and concern for “earthly” issues such as justice and poverty. Historically, Christians have been on both sides of the apartheid movement in South Africa and the slavery issue in the Americas, using theology to support each argument. The concept of “black theology” grew out of the U.S. civil rights revolutions of the 1960s, rooted in a Christian tradition among American blacks that understood God as siding with the oppressed. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. insisted on Christianity’s need to address social injustice. After leaving the Nation of Islam, which advocated a separate black state, Malcolm X preached that the values of Islam could transcend racial boundaries. Desmond Tutu, an Anglican priest, argued in his “ubuntu theology” for inclusiveness and overcoming barriers that divided people.
Christianity was entrenched in North American black communities by the end of the 19th century, often mixed with African religious elements. The Christian message for blacks represented the hope of future happiness, with popular spiritual and secular songs including exhortations to moral behavior, imagery of heaven and anticipation of the coming of God’s Kingdom.
The Pentecostal movement, which began in California in early 20th century, focused on overcoming racial barriers and welcomed mixed congregations. Today, Pentecostalism is growing rapidly among blacks, and many of the nation’s largest black churches are Pentecostal. African-Americans make up an estimated 20 percent of the roughly 3.5 million American Muslims, and an estimated 30 percent of those regularly attending mosques. Most follow W. Deen Mohammed or another orthodox teacher. Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, which does not follow mainstream Islam, leads an estimated 100,000 African-American Muslims. Black churches have long emphasized social services. Now the growing number of predominantly African-American megachurches — those with average Sunday attendance of 2,000 or more — are aggressively expanding outreach and economic development efforts, affecting the nature of surrounding neighborhoods. Some have started community development corporations that develop housing, new businesses, health clinics and social programs. Churches are confronting black men’s issues, family issues and health issues in the black community.
African-American churches continue their history of activism and political involvement, redefining activism in the post-Civil Rights era. African-American churches are known as incubators of political and community leadership, musical talent in many genres and repositories of black history. Researchers could look at how religious involvement affects the lives of black membership and black communities, whether religious involvement promotes racial integration or solidifies racial identification, or attitudes in black religious communities toward working with faith-based government programs which share common goals but potentially different ideologies.
- “‘It’s my inner strength’: spirituality, religion and HIV in the lives of young African American men who have sex with men” by Michael L. Fostera, Emily Arnolda, Gregory Rebchooka and Susan M. Kegeles. Culture, Health & Sexuality. Available online (2011).
- “Just Act, Don’t Think!” Religion, Education, and Disciplinary Decadence by Wandia Njoya. Atlantic Journal of Communication. 19, no. 1 (2011): 43-53.
- “Beyond the Nuclear Family? Familism and Gender Ideology in Diverse Religious Communities” by Penny Edgell and Danielle Docka. Sociological Forum. 22, no. 1 (2007): 26-51.
- “The African-American Holiness Movement” by John M. Giggie. Society. 44, no. 1 (2006): 50-9.
- “The Religious Dimensions of the Grandparent Role in Three-Generation African American Households” by Sharon V. King, et al. Journal of Religion, Spirituality and Aging. 19, no. 1 (2006): 75-96.
- “Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America” by Monroe H. Little, Jr. Indiana Magazine of History. 102, no. 4 (2006): 392-3.
- “Thinking With Rhetorical Figures: Performing Racial and Disciplinary Identities in Late-Nineteenth-Century America” by Steven Mailloux. American Literary History. 18, no. 4 (2006): 695-711.
- “Black Puerto Rican Identity and Religious Experience” by Nelson Maldonado-Torres. Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 74, no. 4 (2006): 1011-4.
- “Battered Black Women’s Use of Religious Services and Spirituality for Assistance in Leaving Abusive Relationships” Hillary Potter. Violence Against Women. 13, no. 3 (2007): 262-84.
- “A Long Walk to Citizenship: Morality, Justice and Faith in the Aftermath of Apartheid” by Sharlene Swartz. Journal of Moral Education. 34, no. 4 (2006): 551-70.
- “Spiritual Journey Leads to a Historic First” by Christopher Maag. The New York Times, June 5, 2009.
- “Sense Of Connection May Be Key: Research suggests the need to re-think the role of religion in preventing suicide behaviors among African American adolescents. Targeted News Service, Aug. 14, 2007.
- “Faith Leaders Press Mugabe” by Catholic Information Service for Africa. Africa News, April 26, 2008.
- “Obama’s Path to Faith Was Eclectic; President-Elect Will Reach Out to Diverse Set of Religious Leaders for Advice” by Eli Saslow. The Washington Post, Jan. 18, 2009.
- “World Bank and Heavenly Bank in Poverty and Prosperity: The Case of Tanzanian Faith Gospel” by Paivi Hasu. Review of African Political Economy. 33, no. 110 (2006): 679-92.
- “Christianity is Black with a Capital ‘B’: The Religion and Politics of Kwame Nkrumah” by Rupe Simms. Western Journal of Black Studies, 30:2 (2006): 118-128.
- “the Attitudes of Black and White College Students Toward Gays and Lesbians” by Morris Jenkins, Eric G. Lambert, and David N. Baker. Journal of Black Studies, 39:4 (2009): 580-613.
- “American religion: diaspora and syncretism from Old World to New” by Aisha Khan. New West Indian Guide, 77 (2003), no: 1/2, Leiden, 105-110
- What Is African American Religion? Anthony B. Pinn. Fortress Press, 2011.
- Encyclopedia of African and African-American religions. Stephen D. Glazier. Taylor & Francis, 2001.
- Varieties of African American Religious Experience (New Vectors in the Study of Religion and Theology). Anthony Pinn. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1998.
- Bound for the promised land: African American religion and the great migration. Milton C. Sernett. Duke University Press, 1997.
- African American religion and the civil rights movement in Arkansas. Johnny E. Williams. Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2003.
- The New Black Gods: Arthur Huff Fauset and the Study of African-American Religions. Edward E. Curtis IV and Danielle Brune Sigler (eds.). Indiana University Press, 2009.
- African-American religion: interpretive essays in history and culture. Timothy Earl Fulop and Albert J. Raboteau. Routledge, 1997.
- “Culturally competent counseling for religious and spiritual African American adolescents” by Cheryl Moore-Thomas and Norma L. Day-Vines. Professional School Counseling. February 2008.
- “The changing nature of gospel music: a Southern case study” by Joyce Marie Jackson. African American Review. June 22, 1995.
- “The Democratization of Religion in the Context of the AIDS Pandemic: An African-American AIDS Ministry,” by Pamela Leong, paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Marriott Hotel, Loews Philadelphia Hotel, Philadelphia, PA, Aug 12, 2005
- “Old Friends and New Alliances: How the 2004 Illinois Senate Race Complicates the Study of Race and Religion” by Melissa Harris-Lancewell and Jane Junn. Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 30-50. September 2007.
Codes of ethics
- African Studies Association – Guidelines for Members’ Ethical Conduct in Research in Africa
- National Council for Black Studies Mission Statement and Background
- Cultural Studies Association – Constitution
- A Religious Portrait of African-Americans (The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life)
- A guide to African-Americans and religion (ReligionLink)
- UCSB Libraries listing of Resources in Black Studies
Professional associations and faith groups
- Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations
- Association of Muslim Social Scientists of North America
- Family Christian Association of America
- Edgell, Penny and Danielle Docka. “Beyond the Nuclear Family? Familism and Gender Ideology in Diverse Religious Communities.” Sociological Forum. 22, no. 1 (2007): 26-51.
- Giggie, John M. “The African-American Holiness Movement.” Society. 44, no. 1 (2006): 50-9.
- King, Sharon V., et al. “The Religious Dimensions of the Grandparent Role in Three-Generation African American Households.” Journal of Religion, Spirituality and Aging. 19, no. 1 (2006): 75-96.
- Little, Monroe H. Jr. “Peoples Temple and Black Religion in America.” Indiana Magazine of History. 102, no. 4 (2006): 392-3.
- Mailloux, Steven. “Thinking With Rhetorical Figures: Performing Racial and Disciplinary Identities in Late-Nineteenth-Century America.” American Literary History. 18, no. 4 (2006): 695-711.
- Maldonado-Torres, Nelson. “Black Puerto Rican Identity and Religious Experience.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 74, no. 4 (2006): 1011-4.
- Potter, Hillary. “Battered Black Women’s Use of Religious Services and Spirituality for Assistance in Leaving Abusive Relationships.” Violence Against Women. 13, no. 3 (2007): 262-84.
- Swartz, Sharlene. “A Long Walk to Citizenship: Morality, Justice and Faith in the Aftermath of Apartheid.” Journal of Moral Education. 34, no. 4 (2006): 551-70.
- Medicine, Religion and Politics in Africa and the African Diaspora. Prof. Erica James, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Music, Religion and Ritual in Africa. Dr. Daniel Avorgbedor, Ohio State University