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The Negro Church in America/The Black Church Since Frazier

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"A brief but brilliant analysis of the historical origin and the present situation of a crucially important in-stitution of the American Negro people ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of The Negro Church in America/The Black Church Since Frazier

Overall customer rating: 5.000
Curran B

Synopsis/Brief Analysis

by Curran B on Nov 3, 2011

Frazier writes as a sociologist, with care as a historian. He recounts of the development of the African-American church from African?s first presence in North America in 1619 as indentured servants, through the 1950s. He disagrees with Du Bois over the extent to which the native religions of Africa had impact on the development of of the black church. Frazier demonstrates the extent to which the whole of the enslavement process stripped Africans of their cultural heritage: the African concentration camps, ?middle passage? from Africa to N. America, the social conditions of slaves in which there were few females?the traditional guardians of culture at the most basic family level?and constant flux due to the economic demands of the plantation system. In this context, apart from the value of dance as the way the most primitive societies express themselves, and the ?shout songs? of the sea islands of GA and SC, Frazier claims that actual elements of African cultic practice had little impact on the development of the black church. Frazier notes the distinctions between the ?invisible institution? of the church among the slaves, and the emerging organized black denominations among the freedmen, and the blending of these institutions in the aftermath of emancipation. The importance of charismatic leaders was always great in the black church as white institutions were often unwilling to give the marks of leadership to black leaders, and in slave contexts charismatic preaching connected more powerfully than educated instruction. Frazier notes the importance of the black church during the 20th century to provide a sociopolitical context for black society which had been virtually universally excluded from white public culture. This meant the church was the only context for political growth and power maneuvering. As black culture moved to center in the cities, the old structures provided by the church which were most adapted to small rural societies faced trouble: the emergence of a black bourgeoisie middle class which sought white respectability, the marginalization of the poor, and the development of small ?storefront? churches with varying degrees of orthodoxy which more closely resembled the churches of the rural South. Frazier saw the black church in the 1950s as less relevant and helpful to the needs of the black community. Lincoln distinguishes between the ?negro? church?which he sees as entirely a farce of submission to white culture throughout its history, and practically an instrument of white suppression?and the ?black? church which is rising up in his own time as a mobilizing force for resistance to white domination and black identity. This option, while helpful, does not seem as promising to Lincoln as that offered in the Nation of Islam, which Lincoln reports on with much greater confidence and less skepticism than he does the church. While this is Lincoln?s greater field of expertise, and the nature of his descriptions may be intended to stylistically make a point (reporting the claims of Wadi Faud and Elijah Muhammad as fact), he fails to note the attitudes of traditional Islam to the Black Muslims.

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