African American Religious Traditions


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This course is intended to introduce students to the wide variety of religious traditions, movements, faith leaders and doctrinal emphases that have arisen within African American communities in the United States dating back to the arrival of Africans brought to this continent in the 17th century.  The course will begin with a focus on the traditional forms of religion in West Africa and how they were eventually merged into certain Christian forms and practices such as Vodun, Santeria and Candomble. It will document the presence of African Americans who practiced Islam and Judaism. The course will trace the rise of African American Methodist and Baptist denominations in the 18th and 19th centuries. It will look at the Azusa Street revival and the emergence of the black Pentecostal movements in the early 20th century. The course will look at the role of the African American church during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. It will look at the emergence of both the megachurch movement and the prosperity gospel movement as a bridge from the 20th to the 21st century. Along the way, attention will be given to the doctrinal struggles that have emerged within the African American religious traditions involving such things as voting rights, women in ministry, human sexuality, expatriation themes and the gradual emergence of spirituality as an alternative to any form of group affiliation.