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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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Apr 17, 2015

Our Scripture verse for today is Hebrews 1:3 which reads: "[Jesus] being the brightness of [God's] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."

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, "In his analysis of Black preaching, Mitchell listed two principles of effective Black preaching: 'The first is that one must declare the gospel in the language and culture of the people -- the vernacular. The second hermeneutic principle is that the gospel must speak to the contemporary man and his needs.' Hamilton further noted that two of the greatest compliments one could pay to Black preachers were: (1) that they know their Bible well and (2) that they can really preach... Black preaching is still an art form that has many unique and positive features. However, it is unfortunate that in some circles and at certain times, the style of preaching has become as important (and sometimes more so) as the content of the message. For some, 'preaching' has not occurred unless it is done in a certain manner. There is much psychology in some preaching styles and those who employ them know it and can cater to it."

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 -- Economic Life” from the book, "From Slavery to Freedom" by John Hope Franklin. 

It would be erroneous to assume that Africans were either primarily nomadic or simply agricultural. There exists in Africa such a diversity of physical environments that it would be impossible for people to evolve identical ways of life in different parts of the continent. Essentially agricultural, the peoples of Africa displayed a remarkable degree of specialization within this ancient economic pursuit. The African concept of landownership stemmed from the importance of agriculture in the peoples' way of life. The land was considered so important to the entire community that it belonged not to individuals but to the collective community, which was comprised of the first occupants of the soil. One of the most important local dignitaries was the "master of the ground," who was at the same time the grand priest of the local religion and the administrator of the soil. The importance of this official can be clearly seen, it may be recalled, in the fact that not even the political ruler could make any disposition of land without the consent of the master of the ground. Individuals or groups of people could obtain the right to use a given parcel of land, but such permission did not carry with it the right of alienation or any other form of disposition. When the land was not used productively, it reverted to the collective domain. 

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Our second topic for today is "The Negro Adapts Christianity to His Experience in the New World, Part 4" from The Negro Church in America by E. Franklin Frazier. He writes:

For a people who had been separated from kinsmen and friends, it was inevitable that the ties of kinship formed in the New World should be the most valued form of human association. This was especially true in respect to the relationship between the mother and her children since, generally, no recognition was accorded the relationship between spouses and the father and his children.

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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 looking at the section titled, “The Work of Various Denominations Among the Slaves”

During the last half of the eighteenth century, near the time of the American Revolution, certain events occurred that helped spread Christianity among the Blacks. First, the inventions of the cotton gin, spinning and weaving machines, and the increased demand for cotton played a large part in the need to import more slaves to work in the Southern soil so ideal for cotton. Second, and more important perhaps, the religious revival that took place from Maine to Georgia began to touch the lives of the Blacks. Beginnings of this revival, called the Great Awakening, occurred in New Jersey in the 1720s with the preaching of a German named Frelinghuysen. 

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