African American Spirituality

Faith, Resilience, Healing, and Justice

Civil Rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in August of 1964.  Photo credit:  Warren K. Leffner, Public Domain.  Hamer was well known for singing spirituals and hymns as she helped organize the Mississippi Freedom Summer and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.


african american spirituality: faith, resilience, healing, and justice

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.

Books and Articles on African American Spirituality

Yolanda Smith, The Musical Theology of Spirituals (Christianity Today, 1999)

Mervyn A. Warren, King Came Preaching: The Pulpit Power of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Amazon book, Nov 1, 2001)

Barbara A. Holmes, Joy Unspeakable: Contemplative Practices of the Black Church (Amazon book, Jul 1, 2004) really appreciated this book for Holmes' insights into emotions, processing, time, and community

Robert W. Kellemen and Karole A. Edwards, Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction (Amazon book, Aug 1, 2007)

Melva Wilson Costen, African American Christian Worship (Amazon book, Sep 1, 2007)

Cleophus James LaRue, Power in the Pulpit: How America's Most Effective Black Preachers Prepare Their Sermons (Amazon book, Apr 20, 2009)

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

Diana Hayes, Forged in the Fiery Furnace: African American Spirituality (Amazon book, Mar 19, 2012)

Wintley Phipps, Amazing Grace (Gaither youtube video, Apr 2012) on the melody being a West African sorrow chant on the pentatonic scale

John Legend, Surprises Baptist Church in West Philly (Youtube, Jun 19, 2011) brief comments on the contribution of the church and gospel music to soul

Jelani Greenridge, 30 Years of Christian Hip Hop (Urban Faith, Dec 3, 2015) and Becky Blanchard, The Social Significance of Rap & Hip-Hop Culture (EDGE, ~1999)

Frank Thomas, Black Preaching Changed the Course of This Country. What Creates That Style? (Washington Post, May 9, 2016)

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


the church in africa: cradles of christian civilization

church and empire: reflections on faithfulness and compromise: topics