Since it is hard to separate Black American history and Black Church history I am combining the two because they are so intertwined. As many of you know, the church and religion has played and continues to play a big role in the African American community.
Yet, many of us who grew up in the traditional black church do not have an understanding of how our faith evolved under the duress of slavery and discrimination to be and to represent what it does today. The purpose of this broadcast is to provide that background knowledge while also pointing out the dividing line between what is just tradition and true faith in Jesus Christ.
Our Scripture verse for today is Psalm 46:10 which reads: “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Our History of Black Americans and the Black Church quote for today is from Lee June, a professor at Michigan State University and the author of the book, “Yet With A Steady Beat: The Black Church through a Psychological and Biblical Lens.” He said, “Hope is also a needed element for an enduring life. Those who decide to live rather than commit suicide often have a high degree of hope. Hope is still taught in the Black Church. Hope is an integral part to the true Christian message and is reinforced in healthy Christian settings. Hope thus has deep spiritual and psychological meaning and implication. Psychologically, hope may be defined as a belief that leads one to strive for a certain outcome with the expectation that the outcome will occur.”
In this podcast, we are using as our texts: From Slavery to Freedom, by John Hope Franklin, The Negro Church in America by E. Franklin Frazier, and The Black Church In The U.S. by William A. Banks.
Our first topic for today is titled “The African Way of Life — Religion (Part 2)” from the book, “From Slavery to Freedom” by John Hope Franklin.
The elaborateness of funeral rites all over the continent attests to the regard that Africans had for the idea that the spirits of the dead played an important part in the life of the kinship group. The funeral was the climax of life, and costly and extensive rituals were sacred obligations of the survivors. The dead were generally buried in the ground either beneath the huts in which they had lived or in cemeteries. Burial often took place within a few days after death, but at times the family delayed interment for several weeks or longer. The grave was not completely closed until every member of the family had had an opportunity to present offerings and to participate in some rite incident to interment. Nothing more clearly demonstrates the cohesiveness of the African family than the ceremonies and customs it practiced on the occasion of the death and burial of a member.
Our second topic for today is “The Institutional Church of the Free Negroes, Part 3” from The Negro Church in America by E. Franklin Frazier. He writes:
The relations of free Negroes and Whites in churches were determined largely by the slave status of the majority of the Negro population. Although the Anglican Church carried on missionary activities among the slaves, they were not interested in changing the status of the slaves. It was the Quakers who, in accepting both Negro slaves and free people on an equal basis, became the enemy of the system of slavery. Religious training of the slaves as a preparation for freedom was advocated by the Quakers as early as the seventeenth century. Many of them freed their slaves and helped to remove legal restrictions against the private manumission of slaves. The relation of free Negroes to the White in the churches did not become a real issue until Negroes were evangelized by the Baptists and Methodists.
Our third and final topic for today is from “The Black Church in the U.S.: Its Origin, Growth, Contributions, and Outlook” by Dr. William A. Banks. Today we are looking at the section titled, “Black Churches Led by Blacks, Part 2”.
The case of Richard Allen is an excellent example of the break with a White congregation. Born a slave in the city of Philadelphia, Allen was sold to a planter who took him to Delaware. He saved his money and in 1777 bought his freedom the same year he was converted under Methodist preaching.