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Article

Scott Alves Barton

Evidence of African, African American influence in food and foodways begins in the seventeenth century in the New York colony’s Dutch and British “Meal Market” that operated from 1655 to 1762 on Wall Street and the East River where enslaved Africans were also sold. Men, women, and children worked as market vendors of prepared foods like hot corn, fresh produce, oysters, fish, livestock, and as dairymen and -women selling cheeses, butter, and milk in local markets. In addition, the African Burial Ground’s archaeology of colonial privies identifies products such as Brazil nuts, coconut, and watermelon that were not native to New York or Europe. Colonizers may have imported some these goods, but the enslaved would have known how to process or raise them (Cheek and Roberts, 2009; Berlin 1996; Burrows and Wallace 1999 At the same time West African women cooking in elite white colonial and ...

Article

In 1786, Richard Allen, an African American Methodist, began serving as a lay preacher at St. George's Methodist Episcopal Church, a Philadelphia congregation where both whites and blacks worshiped. Allen was a former slave from Delaware who had joined the Evangelical Wesleyan movement because of its work against slavery and he eventually became a licensed Methodist preacher. The efforts of Allen—along with those of Absalom Jones, another African American lay preacher—brought a large influx of blacks to the church, and a balcony was constructed to accommodate the growing congregation. In November 1787 (some sources indicate a date of 1792 Allen Jones and other black worshipers were directed toward the newly built seating gallery but unknowingly sat in the lower section During a prayer a white trustee told Jones to move immediately to the balcony When Jones asked to finish the prayer he was refused Jones Allen ...

Article

Sylvia Frey and Thomas E. Carney

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, from its founding in the mid-eighteenth century through1895. The first article provides a discussion of its relationship with its parent church and reasons for its breakaway while the second article also includes discussion of the ...

Article

Since Methodism first emerged in colonial America, it has consistently attracted African American adherents. According to religious scholar Alfred J. Raboteau, “the direct appeal, dramatic preaching, and plain doctrine of the Methodists, their conscious identification with the ‘simpler sort,’ and especially their antislavery beliefs” drew blacks to the church. Indeed, African Americans had been members of New York City's John Street Methodist Church since its founding in 1768. By 1793 black membership increased to 40 percent of John Street's congregation.

Still, African Americans within the John Street Church—and within American Methodism in general—were treated as second-class citizens. They were denied ordination, forced to sit in segregated pews, and limited in their access to the Methodist itinerant clergy and the Communion table. Frustrated by such treatment, two black John Street members, Peter Williams, and William Miller, founded the African Chapel in 1796 The chapel was later ...

Article

Kerima M. Lewis

The long and illustrious history of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church dates back to the eighteenth century. The founder Richard Allen, a former slave who had been able to purchase his freedom and was an ordained Methodist minister, was assigned to Saint George's Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, where he was allowed to preach to blacks. When in November 1787 several black church members, including Absalom Jones, were pulled from their knees while praying, all the black worshippers left Saint George's to form a church of their own. The Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church was established in Philadelphia in 1793 and opened in July 1794. In 1816 Richard Allen united black Methodist congregations from the greater Philadelphia area founding the African Methodist Episcopal Church he was elected the first bishop during the new church s first General Conference The Book of Discipline Articles of Religion ...

Article

Anthony Pinn

Atheism by definition is a philosophy or life strategy that denies the existence of God (or gods) and instead relies on human reason to address life issues. Lacking the same level of certainty, agnosticism holds open the question of God's existence (as well as other religious beliefs) based on the assumption that there is no way to know for certain.

Although a large percentage of African Americans are committed to theism in some form, both atheism and agnosticism have had a long presence in African American communities. Atheism and agnosticism within African American communities have been presented and debated in numerous arenas, all of which reflect the cultural worlds in and by means of which African Americans live. These cultural worlds include: religion, the arts, and politics.

Article

Tiffany M. Gill

Black is beautiful This familiar cry of the Black Power movement was revolutionary in its celebration of the culture style politics and physical attributes of peoples of African descent Symbols of the black is beautiful aesthetic most notably the Afro not only conjured up ideas about black beauty but also highlighted its contentious relationship with black politics and identity This tension between beauty standards and black politics and identity however did not first emerge in the late twentieth century with the Afro or the Black Power movement In fact blacks particularly black women have been struggling to navigate the paradoxical political nature of black identity and beauty since their enslavement in the Americas Despite this strained relationship black women have actively sought to define beauty in their lives and in the process created and sustained one of the most resilient and successful black controlled enterprises in America the black beauty ...

Article

Diana L. Hayes

The first African women came to the Americas almost five hundred years ago as free settlers and slaves, speaking French and Spanish. They came as Catholics, Muslims, and followers of traditional African religions. All came bearing a deep and abiding faith in a God of creation, justice, and honor, in whatever way they named God. Their sacred worldview enabled them to survive, sustained by their belief in a “wonder working” God who would, in God’s own time, free them from their captivity.

Article

Diane Batts Morrow

Few people include Roman Catholicism among the religious traditions of African Americans; the existence of black Roman Catholic sisterhoods, or societies of women religious, remains a historical reality unfamiliar to the general public. Nevertheless, between 1828 and 1916 black women in the United States organized several religious communities, three of which remained active even into the twenty-first century. During historical periods particularly hostile to black people in U.S. society—the antebellum and Jim Crow eras, for example, when slavery and legally sanctioned racial discrimination prevailed—devout Catholic women cofounded the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1828; the Sisters of the Holy Family in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1842; and the Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary in Savannah, Georgia, in 1916.

These courageous black women pursued religious vocations within a society that too often denied the virtue of all black women From the ...

Article

Tamelyn Tucker-Worgs

Black megachurches are predominantly black Protestant (both denominational and nondenominational) churches that average at least 2,000 congregants attending Sunday services each week. Most black megachurches average between 2,000 and 4,000 in weekly attendance, but a few black megachurches report that more than 10,000 people attend Sunday services. These megachurches compose an important social and ecclesiastical phenomenon. Since the early 1980s at least 150 of them have surfaced in the United States. They are in twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., and are concentrated in metropolitan areas with large numbers of black suburbanites such as Atlanta; Washington, D.C.; Houston; and Los Angeles.

Black megachurches are characterized by their multiple ministries which include traditional church activities such as usher boards choirs and missionary boards They also include nontraditional activities such as drama companies singles groups social and political advocacy forums fitness and weight loss groups and technology training classes as well as providing ...

Article

Jeffrey O. Ogbar and Jeffrey O. G.

Black nationalism is the belief system that endorses the creation of a black nation state It also supports the establishment of black controlled institutions to meet the political social educational economic and spiritual needs of black people independent of nonblacks Celebration of African ancestry and territorial separatism are essential components of black nationalism Though not fully developed into a cogent system of beliefs the impulse of black nationalism finds its earliest expression in the resistance of enslaved Africans to the Atlantic slave trade from the sixteenth century Various groups of Africans who felt no particular organic connection as black people were forced into a new racialized identity in a brutal and dehumanizing process of enslavement The transportation and forced amalgamation of hundreds of different African nationalities resulted in Creolized communities in the Americas enslaved Africans revolted and established new societies which functioned autonomously on the outskirts of colonial towns and ...

Article

Josef Sorett

During the period commonly referred to as the post–civil rights era—starting from the late 1960s and proceeding into the early twenty-first century—two significant cultural developments (among others) emerged simultaneously. With newfound access to the social, cultural, and economic institutions central to American life, black cultural artists achieved a level of (hyper) visibility unimaginable during the previous historical period, when segregation was the law of the land. As part of this shift, hip-hop music and culture emerged and evolved into one of the (if not the most prominent forms of popular culture Similarly paralleling the mainstream political gains achieved by evangelicals a Christian culture industry grew exponentially largely by capitalizing upon the resources attached to media innovations such as cable television and the Internet and reconfigurations of market forces in the era of consumer capitalism The latter advances have enabled the emergence of a new crop of televangelists a number ...

Article

Clarence E. Hardy

When most scholars consider the idea of black religious modernism their thoughts turn to what the professor Dennis Dickerson has called that cadre of black religious thinkers consisting largely of men such as Benjamin Mays Mordecai Johnson George Kelsey and Howard Thurman These leaders were educated in liberal northern seminaries and universities during the 1920s and 1930s and then followed their schooling with careers based in black colleges where committed to the task of racial uplift they trained the next black male elite participated in ecumenical global networks and helped develop theological ideas that would become important touchstones for the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s Like many black intellectuals of that time they avoided as the academic Barbara Savage has explained the conservative social and political instincts they associated with tradition and folk bound rural churches of their youth showing instead tendencies toward the modernism they first ...

Article

Jonathan Walton

Black televangelism is a catchall category to describe a range of Protestant and predominantly evangelical ministries that utilize television and/or Webcasts as the primary means of Christian proselytization. This form of religious expression exploded in the final quarter of the twentieth century and propelled the cultural celebrity and spiritual authority of leading televangelists such as Bishop T. D. Jakes and Creflo and Taffi Dollar. Hollywood motion pictures, gospel stage plays, and bestselling publications are just a few of the outgrowths of this ministry form.

Greater inclusion of African American evangelists on white owned conservative Christian networks such as Pat Robertson s Christian Broadcasting Network and Paul and Jan Crouch s Trinity Broadcasting Network can account for in part the expanded opportunities and increased visibility of select African American evangelists Couple this with the expansion of cable networks catering to primarily African American audiences such as Black Entertainment Television and ...

Article

Kathleen Thompson

Black women have been the cultural, social, and economic support of black towns in America for centuries. There were Senegalese enclaves in Louisiana in the 1700s. In the late eighteenth century, Star Hill, Delaware, was created by free blacks on land they acquired from the Quaker community in Camden. Brooklyn, Illinois, was founded by free blacks and fugitive slaves in 1820. As early as 1830, Frank McWhorter, or “Free Frank,” had founded the town of New Philadelphia, Illinois. Sandy Ground, New York, was created by black oyster fishermen fleeing the restrictions on free blacks in Maryland.

In 1825Elijah Roberts and his wife Kessiah led a group of free African Americans, many of whom were part Cherokee, from North Carolina to Hamilton County, Indiana, to start a settlement. Many of the settlers were members of the Roberts family, which had been free since 1734 ...

Article

In the nineteenth century, African Americans had comparatively little cash surplus to give to philanthropic and charitable causes. Yet the black community made a disproportionately large effort to help its unfortunate and underprivileged. In the early twenty-first century, African Americans gave more than any other group in American society, donating 25 percent more of their discretionary income to charities than whites did. On average, black households gave $1,614 to their favorite causes, and additionally many black families contributed 10 percent of their incomes to the church. In 2004, African Americans gave $11.4 billion to charitable causes; $7.2 billion went to churches and faith-based organizations, and $4.2 billion went to charities, education, politics, and other causes.

Article

Debra C. Smith

Like the story of many southern cities, Charlotte, North Carolina has endured its portion of racial inequity, civil rights activism, and violent acts surrounding segregation efforts, But Charlotte, the Queen City, the largest city in North Carolina has been and remains an alcove for African American experience steeped in memory and now modern familiarity. Charlotte is a source of progress and pride for African Americans in the city who lean on historical strength to continue to develop political power, economic resources, and educational aspirations.

Article

Chicago  

Jill Dupont

Standing today at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Wacker Drive, it is hard to imagine the frontier wilderness that lay before Jean Baptiste Point du Sable Chicago s first longtime resident of the city Of African and French descent du Sable arrived sometime in the 1770s and established a fur trading post on the Chicago River near Lake Michigan Du Sable s entrepreneurial spirit and intimate ties to what was even then a multicultural population may have offered a glimpse in retrospect of Chicago s future But it would take more than a century for the city to take full advantage of its location astride major transportation routes and for the town s leadership to display the ingenuity of its first settler Nor was it until the late nineteenth century that more than just a handful of African Americans could seek out the possibilities envisioned by du Sable ...

Article

Sharla M. Fett

The history of African American women’s childbearing is one of cultural resilience and profound structural oppression. Far more than a mere biological event, childbirth has been an important social and religious experience in African American communities. At the same time, slavery, poverty, and discrimination have strongly shaped the social realities of childbearing for many black women. Despite important changes in birth practices over the last three centuries, the experiences of pregnancy and childbirth continue to be closely connected to the broader political and economic struggles of African American women.

From the many cultures of West and Central Africa captive women carried their understandings of birth into the slave societies of the New World Though widely varied African gender systems emphasized the importance of motherhood and fertility to women s social identity and family lineage Captivity by slave traders brought African social institutions of childbirth into a collision with slavery s ...

Article

Wilma King

A variable social construction, the concept of childhood barely existed in early America. In fact, this special period of growth and development experienced before accepting adult responsibilities was not an entrenched American institution until the twentieth century. The time at which this protected segment of the lifecycle ends is debatable. Some scholars and public officials have used twelve as the cutoff while others set it at age sixteen or eighteen. Still others claim childhood lasts until twenty-one years of age.

Age limits aside, other factors, including color, class, status, and the embracing shield of loved ones, are significant in determining if girls enjoy a protected period in their formative years. There are also concerns about their psychological well-being and freedom from emotional devastation, which may mature girls beyond their chronological years.