The Bible and African
Americans: An Outline of
an Interpretative History
Vincent L. Wimbush
There has been no lack of efforts in the last decade or so to make sense of the religious traditions of African Americans. Such traditions have been interpreted, for example, as institutional or denominational history,1 as a liberation movement,2 as part of a history-of-religions paradigm for aboriginal America,3 as sociological phenomena,4 and as historical manifestations of the African world view and piety in a particular context
1. James M. Washington, Frustrated Fellowship: The Black Baptist Quest for Social Power
(Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1986).
2. In the modern period beginning with the watershed book of James H. Cone, Black
Theology and Black Power (New York: Seabury Press, 1969). For a bibliography on the
development of black theology see especially James H. Cone and Gayraud S. Wilmore,
eds., Black Theology: A Documentary History, 1966–1979 (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books,
3. Charles H. Long, Significations: Signs, Symbols, and Images in the Interpretation of
Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986).
4. C. Eric Lincoln, Race, Religion, and the Continuing American Dilemma (New York:
Hill and Wang, 1984); and Harold D. Trulear, “Sociology of Afro-American Religion: An
Appraisal of C. Eric Lincoln’s Contributions,” Journal of Religious Thought 42, no. 2 (Fall–
Winter 1986): 44–55.