The Blending of Africanisms and Christianity

Article excerpt

The Blending of Africanisms and Christianity

Ain't Gonna Lay My `Ligion Down: African American Religion in the South

edited by Alonzo Johnson and Paul Jersild

University of South Carolina Press, 1996

141 pages

Hardback or Softcover: $19.95

Convinced of the connection between religion and culture, Alonzo Johnson and Paul Jersild have attempted to contribute to a greater understanding of African Americans and their culturally religious ideas. Ain't Gonna Lay My `Ligion Down: African American Religion in the South moves toward this end by examining aspects of the connectedness of Black and southern religion and culture.

The authors assume that Africanisms have not been obliterated in the lives of the diaspora in the United States. Instead, certain Africanisms have survived among African Americans and these residuals are particularly present in southern religious culture.

Johnson's chapter concerning the "Pray's House Spirit" among Christian churches in South Carolina describes a world that is shaped particularly by the religious impulses and practices of Lowcountry South Carolinians and the Gullahs. These communities of faith created identities, expectations and ways of validating the religious authenticity of African Americans against the backdrop of racial oppression.

Jon Michael Spencer's essay, "The Rhythms of Black Folks," associates African rhythm with African spirit. Recognizing a consistent manifestation of rhythm in traditional African cultures on the continent and the role of rhythm throughout aesthetic expressions in the diaspora, Spencer seeks to show how rhythm is a major strand of continuity woven through the history and development of African peoples. This argument identifies rhythm as an Africanism resilient enough to have survived racist efforts at annihilating anything African.

Positing the indestructibility of rhythm, Spencer asserts that rhythm conveys -- and is conveyed by -- the culture of African peoples through spirituals, blues, Renaissance aesthetics, preaching, and rap. Consequently, he maintains that rhythm is foundational to -- and characteristic of -- Black music, that music is the principal source of Black religious ritual, and that rhythmic ritual is the place from which Black culture rises.

William Courtland Johnson's contribution about the morality of the Brer Rabbit Tales launches a frontal assault on a genre of scholarship which argues that the tales have an irrationally amoral Brer Rabbit. …


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