L57 RelPol 280

African-American Religions

Spring 2020, T/Th 11:30AM–12:50PM

This course is an introduction to African-American religions.

WUCRSL
line drawing of three people teaching superimposed on each other
  • headshot photo of Vernon Mitchell
    Vernon Mitchell

Biography

This course is an introduction to African-American religions. This course attends to change wrought in indigenous African religions by enslavement, the adoption of Christianity (and severe critiques of it) by slaves themselves, the building of African-American denominations, the rise of new black religious movements, and the role of religion in contemporary African-American life. At every stage of the course, religion is discussed with reference to key political developments in broader African-American history. The course proceeds in three parts. The course begins with a brief introduction to key themes and problems in the study of African-American religions. For example, is there such thing as a “black church,” and how does the study of African-American religion differ from the study of other religious groups or traditions? The second part, the bulk of the course, moves chronologically and situates African and African-American religions in their shifting cultural and political contexts from the beginning of the European slave trade to the present. We will discuss African-Americans’ practice of several religious traditions: indigenous African religions, Islam, Protestant and Catholic Christianity, and new religious movements. The final part of the course focuses on several key issues and debates that are informed by the study of African-American religions and that have important connections with contemporary American life.