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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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Nov 6, 2015

Our Scripture verse for today is Matthew 5:14-16 which reads: "Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

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, "Both the pastor and the church community have been major contributors to promoting the spiritual as well as the psychological well-being of individuals. While the landscape has changed dramatically over the years, both the church setting and the pastor remain vital to the overall well-being of individuals involved in the church community. It is my belief that the historical 'Black Church' had more of a way-of-life effect on its parishioners than many contemporary congregations do. Further, as individuals began to compartmentalize their lives, some of the natural psychological benefits arising from church involvement started to dissipate. As the deep psychological impact of the 'Black Church' began to be removed from it, its all-embracing benefits also started to wane."

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 "African Culture and the Diaspora" from the book, "From Slavery to Freedom" by John Hope Franklin.

Students of Africa and America have discussed for many years the question of the extent to which African culture was transplanted and preserved in the New World. Of course, a considerable number of students formerly contended that nothing existed in Africa that approached civilization and that there was, therefore, nothing for Africans to bring with them. As evidence to the contrary began to pile up, that position was no longer tenable. Questions still remained as to whether Africans continued to be African in ways other than color and whether any substantial elements of Africa became part of the general acculturative process taking place in America. Sociologists like E. Franklin Frazier and Robert E. Park have failed to see anything in contemporary African-American life that can be traced to the African background. On the other hand, scholars like Carter G. Woodson, Melville J. Herskovits, Lorenzo Turner, John Blassingame, and Albert Raboteau have insisted that the African cultural heritage can still be seen in many aspects of American life today. In the 1960s and 1970s the debate was revived when many blacks and some whites began to insist that a substantial portion of African culture not only survived the Atlantic crossing but has persisted to the present day. Although the controversy continues unresolved, it nevertheless seems possible to make a tentative statement about this important problem.

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Our second topic for today is "The Institutional Church of the Free Negroes, Part 6" from The Negro Church in America by E. Franklin Frazier. // Conflict over the Question of Status (Continued)

The question of status was not confined to the South. In the North as in the South a number of Negro preachers had acquired some distinction and had preached to predominantly white congregations. Among these was Lemuel Haynes, the illegitimate child of a Negro and a white woman who was born in Connecticut in 1753. He took the name of a white benefactor who took him in his home when he was abandoned by his mother. Haynes grew to manhood in Massachusetts after having been bound out as a child of five months. It was in the home of the man to whom he was bound out that he first read the Bible and conducted the family prayers. He was licensed to preach in the Congregational Church and serve in a number of churches in New England.

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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 3 of Chapter 3: "Reaction -- 1820 to 1865".

THE HAMITIC CURSE

One belief held by many during this period was the "Hamitic curse," and Genesis 9:25 was a favorite text of many Southern preachers. A study of Genesis 9:20-27 reveals that it was Ham, the father of Canaan, who saw Noah's nakedness. However, the curse is upon Canaan, Noah's grandson. Because the Bible does not teach that curses fall indiscriminately upon the heads of the innocent, different solutions have been offered as to why Canaan and not Ham was cursed. Some have suggested that the words "his younger son", meaning “the little one,” could refer to Canaan as well as to Ham, thus punishing Canaan for his own sin and not that of his father. One thing is clear: those who talk about the Hamitic curse must remember that Canaan, not Ham, was cursed. If Ham bore blame, we are unaware of his punishment. It is simply prophesied that the moral guilt of Ham would manifest itself in Canaan and his descendants. Thus, first of all, it was Canaan, not Ham, upon whom the curse fell.

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