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The History of Black Americans and the Black Church

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.
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Jul 17, 2015

Our Scripture verse for today is Colossians 2:9-10 which reads: "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:"

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, “One's worldview has a profound impact on one's psychology of life and one's behavior. The 'Black Church' teaches a worldview. It is Bibliocentric and views life as important, ordained of God, with a future life that is even better. This 'otherworldly' aspect of religion has been misinterpreted by many, including Black writers. Such writers saw the 'otherworldliness' as escapism or as 'opium of the people.' While one must admit that in the practice of Christianity, one can exhibit escapism, true religion/Christianity is both 'this and otherworldly.' Jesus indicated in His high priestly prayer that we are 'in the world but not of the world.' It is the proper understanding of this and other Scriptures that allows one to maintain sanity in the midst of oppression, hatred, discrimination, etc. Without such a view it would have been easy for our fore parents to give up and say, 'What's the use?'"

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 -- The Arts (Part 2)" from the book, "From Slavery to Freedom" by John Hope Franklin. 

The numerous spoken languages found in Africa always constituted a barrier to the development of literary forms. From the Atlantic to Ethiopia, through the heart of the continent, the languages of the Sudanic group are spoken. In the southern half of Africa, Bantu is spoken. There are at least ten Semitic dialects, ranging from the Arabic in North Africa to the Berber dialects heard in the Great Desert. Besides, there are many communal dialects and languages that have no apparent relationship with the principal language groups. Among these are the languages of Suto, Rwanda, and Banda. Thus, where there is so much heterogeneity in the spoken language, even within a relatively small area, the almost insurmountable difficulties involved in the evolution of adequate means of extensive communication become readily apparent. 

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Our second topic for today is "The Institutional Church of the Free Negroes, Part 5" from The Negro Church in America by E. Franklin Frazier. He writes:

Andrew Bryan was born a slave in South Carolina and was brought by his master to Savannah. He began with public exhortations and prayer meetings and was soon preaching to congregations of white and black people in Savannah. Bryan was permitted by his master and other whites to erect a church. But considerable opposition developed because it was feared that despite the "salutary" effect of his preaching, the religious gatherings would lead to a slave uprising. Bryan and his brother suffered considerable persecution including whippings and torture. His master came to his defense, and he was permitted to conduct his services in a barn. Through the assistance of influential friends he was able to collect funds in order to purchase a lot upon which he built a church. When his master died, the heirs of the estate gave him an opportunity to purchase his freedom. However, the church remained under the control of the heirs of his master's estate and the worship of the communicants continued to be supervised by whites. As the membership increased, a number of congregations split and new churches were founded. When Bryan died in 1812, he was the acknowledged and respected leader of the religious life of Negroes in Georgia. 

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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 continuing with part 2 of Chapter 3: "Reaction -- 1820 to 1865".

RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED

Southern states moved rapidly to enact stringent laws. In Mississippi in 1823 it became unlawful for six or more Blacks to meet for educational purposes. Meetings for religious purposes required the permission of the master. Even then a recognized White minister or two reputable Whites had to be present. In Delaware in 1831, no more than twelve Blacks were allowed to assemble later than 12 o'clock midnight unless three respectable Whites were present. No free Black could attempt to call a meeting for religious worship unless authorized by a judge or justice of peace upon recommendation of five respectable White citizens. In many sections of the South Black preachers were silenced and not allowed to preach other than on their own plantations, and then only with their masters' consent. 

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