African-American Religion: A Documentary History Project
Teaching Resources

Religious Studies 203
African-American Religious History

Spring 2000, Mon. 2–5 p.m., AR 116
Prof. Laurie Maffly-Kipp

Course Description: This course is an introduction to the history and variety of African-American religions in the United States. Our approach will be roughly chronological, moving from the earliest years of the European-African slave trade and transmission of African cultures to the New World, to contemporary religious expressions in the African-American community. We will also be exploring some of the major historiographical themes that have catalyzed current scholarship, including the relationship between religion and political resistance during slavery, the purpose and effectiveness of black nationalist movements, issues of class and gender, the persistence of African survivals in black worship, and the religious dimensions of Afrocentrism. We will deal primarily with Protestantism, but Catholic, Muslim, and folk religions will also be considered.

Course Requirements: Three short book reports (2 pages) that will also be presented in class; one in-class presentation (which should include leading discussion and saying something about the general topic for the day based on the readings), and one final historiographical paper (12–15 pages). Our emphasis in the course will be on reading and reporting to one another about texts, in an effort to learn more about the “stuff” of African-American religion (who was Richard Allen? When was the NBC founded?) as well as to critically examine recurrent questions in the field (what are “Africanisms” and how do we evaluate them? What is the relationship between black Christianity and black nationalism?).

Schedule of Readings and Discussions:

Jan. 24     Africa and Africanisms in the New World

Jan. 31     The Black Atlantic

Readings: John Thornton articles, Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, ch. 1

Feb. 7     African Communities in the Americas

Readings: Richard Price, Alabi’s World

Reading Reports:
Philip Morgan, Slave Counterpoint: Black Culture in the Eighteeth Century Chesapeake and Lowcountry, ch. 10 [100 pages]

Feb. 14     Slave Religion

Readings: Sylvia Frey and Betty Wood, Come Shouting to Zion

Reading Reports:
Michael A. Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South; Lawrence Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness; Sterling Stuckey, Slave Culture; Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion

Feb. 21     Race and Evangelical communities

Readings: Jon Sensbach, A Separate Canaan: The Making of an Afro-Moravian World in North Carolina, 1763–1840

Reading Reports:
Christine Leigh Heyrman, Southern Cross; Mechal Sobel, The World They Made Together; Donald G. Mathews, Religion in the Old South

Feb 28     Independent Black Churches

Readings: James T. Campbell, Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa, book one; Will Gravely, “The Rise of African-American Churches in America (1786–1822): Re-examining the Contexts,” in Timothy E. Fulop and Albert J. Raboteau, African-Ametican Religion: Interpretive Essays in History and Culture

Reading Reports:
Carol George, Segregated Sabbaths; Gary Nash, Forging Freedom

Mar. 6     Emancipation and its Aftermath

Readings: William Montgomery, Under Their Own Vine and Fig Tree: The African-American Church in the South, 1865–1900

Reading Reports:
Paul Harvey, Redeeming the South; Reginald Hildebrand, The Times Were Strange and Stirring; James M. Washington, Frustrated Fellowship

Mar. 13     Spring Break

Mar. 20     Gender and Race

Readings: Nell Irvin Painter, Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol

Reading Reports:
William Andrews, Sisters of the Spirit; Judith Weisenfeld and Richard Newman, eds., This Far By Faith; Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent

Mar. 27     Immigration, Urbanization, and New Religious Movements

Readings: Milt Sernett, Bound for the Promised Land: African American Religion and the Great Migration

Reading Reports:
Jill Watts, God, Harlem U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story

Apr. 3     Music and Preaching

Readings: Michael Harris, The Rise of Gospel Blues: The Music of Thomas Andrew Dorsey in the Urban Church

Reading Reports:
Glenn Hinson, Fire in the Bones; Eileen Southern, The Music of Black Americans

Apr. 10     Civil Rights Movement

Readings: Andrew Manis, A Fire You Can’t Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham’s Reverend Fred

Reading Reports:
Aldon Morris, The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement

Apr. 17     Nation of Islam

Readings: Claude Andrew Clegg III, An Original Man: The Life and Times of Elijah Muhammed

Reading Reports:
Yvonne Chireau and Nathaniel Deutsch, Black Zion; Mattias Gardell, Countdown to Armageddon

Apr. 24     Islam

Readings: TBA

Reading Reports:
Michael Gomez, Exchanging Our Country Marks; Yvonne Haddad and Jane Idleman Smith, Muslim Communities in North America; Richard Turner, Islam in the African American Experience; Aminah Beverly McCloud, African American Islam

May 1     Creolized Traditions

Readings: Karen McCarthy Brown, Mama Lola

Reading Reports:
Joseph Murphy, Working the Spirit and Santeria

Copyright © 2006 The Trustees of Amherst College and
African-American Religion: A Documentary History Project
Amherst College #2269, P. O. Box 5000
Amherst, MA 01002–5000

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