Since the first African American denomination was established in Philadelphia in 1818, churches have gone beyond their role as spiritual guides in African American communities and have served as civic institutions, spaces for education, and sites for the cultivation of individuality and identities in the face of limited or non-existent freedom.
In this Very Short Introduction, Eddie S. Glaude Jr. explores the history and circumstances of African American religion through three examples: conjure, African American Christianity, and African American Islam. He argues that the phrase "African American religion" is meaningful only insofar as it describes how through religion, African Americans have responded to oppressive conditions including slavery, Jim Crow apartheid, and the pervasive and institutionalized discrimination that exists today. This bold claim frames his interpretation of the historical record of the wide diversity of religious experiences in the African American community. He rejects the common tendency to racialize African American religious experiences as an inherent proclivity towards religiousness and instead focuses on how religious communities and experiences have developed in the African American community and the context in which these developments took place.
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