The Church in African America Post-1954

Resistance to a Racial Empire

A black church congregation in May 1961 praying for the Freedom Riders, who were civil rights activists challenging Southern states for having segregated public buses, despite the Supreme Court ruling in 1946 (Morgan v. Virginia) and 1960 (Boynton v. Virginia) that they were unconstitutional. Photo credit:  Kristine | CC2.0, Flickr


the church in african america Post-1954: resistance to a racial empire

The selection of perspectives on church history in this section has been guided by three factors: (1) to demonstrate that Christianity has not been a “white man’s religion”; (2) the study of empire as a recurring motif in Scripture by recent biblical studies scholars; and (3) explorations of biblical Christian ethics on issues of power and polity, to understand how Christians were faithful to Christ or not.  Christian relational ethics continues a Christian theological anthropology that began with reflection on the human nature of Jesus, and the human experience of biblical Israel.

Messages and Essays on the Church in African American Post-1954

The Role of Jesus in Revolution and the Pursuit of Justice This is an evangelistic message that highlights the Christian-led and Christian-influenced non-violent resistance movements throughout the world in the 20th century.  They show the connections and spiritual vitality of Christian faith under empire or empire-like oppression.

The Theology of Marvel’s Black Panther (45 - 60 minute presentation, or 2 hour presentation with discussion) A fun exploration of the movie as social commentary, reliance on actual African and African-American history affected by Christian faith, and concepts of good and evil which are ultimately theological. Why is Wakanda like Ethiopia? How does the T’Challa vs. Killmonger dynamic play out like the MLK vs. Malcolm X dynamic?

Books and Articles About the Church in African America Post-1954

Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesse Jackson, Why We Can’t Wait (Amazon book, 1963)

Martin Luther King Jr. and James M. Washington, A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches (Amazon book, Apr 29, 2003)

Carl F. Ellis Jr., Free at Last?: The Gospel in the African-American Experience (Amazon book, 1983, 1996) explores the black church's historic emphasis on exodus and exile motifs from Scripture, also suggests that Malcolm X was actually moving back to Christian faith

Albert J. Raboteau, A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History (Amazon book, 1995) describes the struggles and preaching of the black American church from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement, and explores its significance for American history and self-understanding

David J. Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Amazon book, 1986)

Marcia Y. Riggs and Barbara Holmes, Can I Get a Witness?: Prophetic Religious Voices of African American Women : An Anthology (Amazon book, 1997) featuring Ida Wells Burnett, Mary McLeod Bethune, Fannie Lou Hamer, and many other women - a valuable resource (Amazon book, 1997)

Tera W. Hunter, To 'Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women's Lives and Labors after the Civil War (Amazon book, 1997)

Chana Kai Lee, For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (Amazon book, 1999)

Barbara Ransby, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (Amazon book, 2003)

John Lewis, Extended Interview (PBS/WGBH, Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Jan 16, 2004)

Kay Mills, This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer (Amazon book, Aug 24, 2007)

Charles Marsh, God’s Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights (Amazon book, 1997) follows various Christians after the summer of 1964 in Mississippi, when violence against blacks and the murder of three civil rights workers drew national attention.  Marsh does excellent biographical work to show how Sam Bowers (KKK Grand Wizard), Fannie Lou Hamer (a black Christian activist), William Douglas Hudgins (a pastor of a church which stayed "neutral"), and others read the Bible and deployed it to defend their positions.

Brian K. Blount, Can I Get a Witness?: Reading Revelation Through African American Culture (Amazon book, 2005)

Charles Marsh, The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice from the Civil Rights Movement to Today (Amazon book, Aug 8, 2006) valuable work of theological biography, of individuals and communities

J. Kameron Carter, Race: A Theological Account (Amazon book, 2008) A sobering account, from a leading African-American theologian, of how Western Christians developed the blood theory of race, taking biblical Israel as a "race" when in reality it was a multi-ethnic faith community; important for Christians to own.  Catholic Spain suspected Jews of not truly converting to Christianity, so they emphasized Judaism as a "race" rather than a faith.  Then, in the Americas, the Spanish developed many terms to differentiate combinations of blood relations.

Danielle L. McGuire, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power (Amazon book, Sep 7, 2010) narrates the history of white male sexual aggression against black women, and how that also motivated black churches and the Civil Rights Movement.  McGuire continues in the path set by Ida B. Wells and Darlene Clark Hine in calling our attention to oppression by both gender and race.

Willie James Jennings, The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race (Amazon book, 2010) A brilliant storytelling of key encounters between Western Christians and African and Native American people; important for Christians to own this responsibility since colonialism and race (with natural science) went together.  See also Grawemeyer Awards, Willie James Jennings: Work on Christianity and Race Earns Religion Prize (Grawemeyer Awards, 2014)

Emmett G. Price III, The Black Church and Hip Hop Culture: Toward Bridging the Generational Divide (Amazon book, 2012)

Rebecca Savastio, KKK Member Walks up to Black Musician in Bar-but It’s Not a Joke, and What Happens Next Will Astound You (Las Vegas Guardian Express, Nov 20, 2013)

Raphael G. Warnock, The Divided Mind of the Black Church: Theology, Piety, and Public Witness (Amazon book, 2013)

Ta-Nehisi Coates, "I Am Still Called by the God I Serve to Walk This Out": A Conversation with Lucia McBath, Mother of Jordan Davis (The Atlantic, Feb 25, 2014)

Father Andrew Anderson, Orthodoxy in Africa (Ancient Faith Ministries, Nov 27, 2013)

ABC Assignment America, He Murdered Her Only Son in Cold Blood.  Now He's Her Next Door Neighbor (Viralvita video, Apr 30, 2014)

John R. Gresham, Jr., The Marcus Garvey Factor & African-American Orthodoxy (St. Simon's Order blog, Jun 17, 2014)

John R. Gresham, Jr., Athanasius: Relevance in the Black Church Today (St. Simon's Order blog, Jun 26, 2014)

Kieran Corcoran, From Half-Time to Harvest: How NFL Center Gave up $37 Million Football Contract to Farm Cucumbers and Sweet Potatoes (Mail Online, Nov 15, 2014)

Jim Davis, CBS Loves NFL Veteran's Potato Farm; His Christian Beliefs, Not So Much (Get Religion, Nov 17, 2014)

Reggie Ugwu, The Radical Christianity of Kendrick Lamar (Buzz Feed, Feb 3, 2015)

Tracey Michae'l, Doing the Work, Preaching the Word: 6 Black Female Christian Leaders Who Inspire Us (For Harriet blog, Feb 21, 2015)

Lisa Sharon Harper, How Religion Became a Destructive - and Redemptive - Force for 'Black Lives Matter' (Washington Post, Apr 9, 2015)

Stephen Curry, The Holy Spirit is Moving Through Our Locker Room Says NBA MVP (Charisma News, May 6, 2015)

Lizette Alvarez and Alan Blinder, Recalling Nine Spiritual Mentors, Gunned Down During Night of Devotion (NY Times, Jun 18, 2015)

Tasneem Nashrulla, Charleston Church Targeted In Shooting Has A Deep Civil Rights History (BuzzFeed, Jun 18, 2015)

Elahe Izadi, The Powerful Words of Forgiveness Delivered to Dylann Roof by Victims' Relatives (Washington Post, Jun 19, 2015)

LoveMeSome, The Only Comment on Dylann Roof's Facebook Photo Will Bring You to Tears (LoveMeSome, Jun 19, 2015)

WebTV, Reporter Breaks Down as Mourners Sing Outside Scene of Charleston Shooting (youtube video, Jun 21, 2015)

Michael Wear, Stop Explaining Away Black Forgiveness (Christianity Today, Jun 24, 2015)

Peggy Noonan, Two Miracles in Charleston (WSJ, Jun 25, 2015)

Anya Marsalek Leveille, Churches Play Key Role in Fight Against Racism (Post and Courier, Jul 5, 2015)

Jesse James DeConto, Activist Who Took Down Confederate Flag Drew On Her Faith and New Civil Rights Awakening (Religion News Service, Jul 12, 2015)

Melissa Chan, Oregon Cop Who Turned in Racist Police Chief for Dancing Like Monkey After Black Woman's Complaint Gets Death Threats (NY Daily News, Sep 9, 2015)

Kenneth R. Morefield, An African American Confronts the Klan in Accidental Courtesy (Christianity Today, Mar 24, 2016) Daryl Davis befriends Klan members

Lecrae, Is Hip Hop a Cancer or a Cure? (TED Talk, May 17, 2016)

RAZC, Just Before Steph’s Biggest Game, Ayesha Curry Stands For Her Faith (QPolitical, Jun 2, 2016)

Carol Kuruvilla, Rapper Has Choice Words For Christians Who Don’t Want Him To Talk About Race (Huffington Post, Jul 12, 2016) re: Lecrae

Jamelle Bouie, Bright Shining as the Sun: Infused with the Spirit of the Black Church, the Democrats Became the Party of Optimism (Slate, Jul 29, 2016)

Marti Benedetti, Central Detroit Christian Slowly Rebuilds Houses, Commerce in a 24 Block Area of North Detroit (Crain's Detroit Business, Aug 21, 2016)

Albert J. Raboteau, American Prophets: Seven Religious Radicals and Their Struggle for Social and Political Justice (Amazon book, Oct 4, 2016)

Ernest Cleo Grant II, The Challenge of Defending the Faith in the Inner City (Christianity Today, Nov 16, 2016)  

Zahara Hill, This Pastor Is Providing Harlem Residents With Free Mental Health Care (Huffington Post, Dec 20, 2016)

Mark Tseng Putterman, When Silence Is Betrayal: On Asian American Debt To The Radical King (Medium, Jan 16, 2017)

Michael De Sapio, MLK's Philosophy was Rooted in the Natural Law Tradition (Foundation for Economic Education, Jan 16, 2017)

Mic Staff, Artist Creates "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" Memes to Stop People from Whitewashing MLK (Mic, Jan 16, 2017)

Jemar Tisby, The Real Reason the Benedict Option Leaves Out the Black Church (The Witness: A Black Christian Collective, Mar 29, 2017)

Joshua L. Lazard, "I Speak to God in Public": Are Young Black Millennials Reclaiming a Theology of Resistance? (Religion Dispatches, Apr 14, 2017)

Kathryn Schulz, The Many Lives of Patti Murray (The New Yorker, Apr 17, 2017) Episcopal priest who anticipated the legal argument of Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law, that residential segregation efforts by government agencies violated the 13th and 14th Amendments

David Briggs, The Black Church Matters To Black Lives (Huffington Post, May 31, 2017)

AJ Willingham, Former 'Terrible Racist' Gives Big Donation, Apology to Black Church (CNN, Jun 1, 2017)

Lawrence Ware, Why I'm Leaving the Southern Baptist Convention (NY Times, Jul 17, 2017)

Jon Schwarz, The Incredible Lost History of How "Civil Rights Plus Full Employment Equals Freedom" (The Intercept, Jul 17, 2017)

Jemar Tisby, White Evangelicals Must Ask, “Why Does Our Theology Lead to Republicanism?” (The Witness: A Black Christian Collective, Dec 18, 2017) 

Vince Bantu, Mis-Reformed, the Imperialism of Reformed Theology (Urban Perspective, Feb 19, 2018)

Nikita Stewart, 50 Years After Dr. King's Death, Remembering the Women Who Steered the Movement (NY Times, Apr 2, 2018)

Jesse Jackson, How Dr. King Lived Is Why He Died (NY Times, Apr 4, 2018)

P.R. Lockhart, The Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike and MLK's Unfinished Fight for Economic Justice (Vox, Apr 4, 2018)

Brakkton Booker, The Poor People's Campaign Seeks To Complete Martin Luther King's Final Dream (NPR, May 14, 2018)

Ameen Hudson, Biblical Justice and The Specter of Cultural Marxism (The Witness Black Christian Collective, Nov 18, 2018) an excellent, short article

Samuel Smith, A.R. Bernard's Brooklyn Megachurch to Build $1.2 Billion Housing Community to Address Gentrification (Christian Post, Dec 2, 2018)

Ashon Crawley, Jeremiah Wright Knew What America Was Becoming. The Obamas Can’t See What It Is. (Huffington Post, Dec 19, 2018) subtitled "In her book, Michelle Obama continues to distance herself from her old pastor."

Nikole Hannah-Jones, Our Democracy’s Founding Ideals Were False When They Were Written. Black Americans Have Fought to Make Them True. (NY Times Magazine, Aug 14, 2019) “And to this day, black Americans, more than any other group, embrace the democratic ideals of a common good. We are the most likely to support programs like universal health care and a higher minimum wage, and to oppose programs that harm the most vulnerable. For instance, black Americans suffer the most from violent crime, yet we are the most opposed to capital punishment. Our unemployment rate is nearly twice that of white Americans, yet we are still the most likely of all groups to say this nation should take in refugees.”

the church in africa: cradles of christian civilization

church and empire: reflections on faithfulness and compromise: topics