Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South

Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South

Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South

Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South

Synopsis

Twenty-five years after its original publication, Slave Religion remains a classic in the study of African American history and religion. In a new chapter in this anniversary edition, author Albert J. Raboteau reflects upon the origins of the book, the reactions to it over the past twenty-five years, and how he would write it differently today. Using a variety of first and second-hand sources-- some objective, some personal, all riveting-- Raboteau analyzes the transformation of the African religions into evangelical Christianity. He presents the narratives of the slaves themselves, as well as missionary reports, travel accounts, folklore, black autobiographies, and the journals of white observers to describe the day-to-day religious life in the slave communities. Slave Religion is a must-read for anyone wanting a full picture of this "invisible institution."

Excerpt

Until recently, the history of the black Church was a subject largely ignored by historians of religion in America despite the wide recognition that black religious institutions have been the foundation of Afro-American culture. An agency of social control, a source of economic cooperation, an arena for political activity, a sponsor of education, and a refuge in a hostile white world, the black Church has been historically the social center of AfroAmerican life. One still looks in vain, however, for a major history of Afro-American religion. Valuable pioneering work was done by W.E.B. Du Bois in The Souls of Black Folks and The Negro Church, both published in 1903; by Carter G. Woodson in his History of the Negro Church, published in 1921; and by E. Franklin Frazier, whose 1953 lecture series on black religion was gathered and issued in 1964 as The Negro Church in America. However, the field still remains a fertile area for exploration. One of the purposes of this book is to serve as a rough sketch for further, more exhaustive examination of this importent subject.

Little enough has been written on the history of the visible institutions of black religion: the independent black denominations and churches. Much less has there been discussion of what might be termed “the invisible institution”—black religion under slavery. Part of the problem has been the assumption that sources for a study of slave religion simply do not exist. Daniel Boorstin . . .

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