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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 9, 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, "Part of the reason for the multiple roles of the Black Pastor has historically been that the pastor was invariably one of the most influential and articulate members of Black church society; frequently they were the most educated members of the Black community. Thus, the community and congregation demanded and, at minimum, expected them to be available to assist with their various needs. The Black pastor was and still often remains a 'counselor' to those facing family, marital, and personal difficulties. Moreover, the pastor has traditionally played a role in helping persons and families deal with death and grief issues. Their sermons often speak to these difficulties, as well as to issues of oppression and racism and thus provide hope in the midst of trials and tribulations through their teaching and sermons."

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 -- Political Institutions, Part 2” from the book, "From Slavery to Freedom" by John Hope Franklin. We are going to look at the West African Coast and European Merchant-Traders.

The power to govern a state usually resided in a given family and was transmitted by it. Two other families, however, performed important functions in establishing a royal personage on the throne: the electing family and the enthroning family. The electing family could exercise a choice within the royal family. In this way, Africans recognized the stabilizing effect that a royal family might have on the political fortunes of the people. At the same time, they were practical enough to recognize the fact that the eldest son was not necessarily the ablest or most desirable and felt free to choose their ruler from among any of the male members of the royal family. The new king could exercise no authority until he had been properly invested in office by those so designated by the enthroning family. These practices had the effect of ensuring the people a more satisfactory monarch than automatic descent of authority might give them. 

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Our second topic for today is "The Negro Adapts Christianity to His Experience in the New World, Part 3" from The Negro Church in America by E. Franklin Frazier. He writes:

From the standpoint of his earthly condition, the Negro was constantly concerned with death. In a recent lecture dealing with the Spirituals, a distinguished Negro minister has pointed out that for the slave death was an ever-present and compelling fact "because of the cheapness with which his life was regarded. The slave was a tool, a thing, a utility, a commodity, but he was not a person. He was faced constantly with the imminent threat of death, of which the terrible overseer was the symbol; and the awareness that he (the slave) was only chattel property, the dramatization?" 

One only needs to recall the words of many of the Spirituals to realize how important death was to the slaves and later to the emancipated Negro.

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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, “Revival -- 1777-1819: The Protestant Episcopal Church”

The eighteenth century brought a number of changes regarding evangelism among Blacks. Fears that conversion meant freedom from servitude were allayed. Various legal rulings stated that Christianity was not a legal barrier to slavery. Feeling freer to evangelize, the denominations became busier. The Anglican Society of the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, founded in 1701 and intended to care for British emigrants, soldiers, officials, and merchants, soon turned its attention to American Blacks and Native Americans. 

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