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Through the Storm, Through the Night
A History of African American Christianity
Paul Harvey illustrates how black Christian traditions provided theological, institutional, and personal strategies for cultural survival during bondage and into an era of partial freedom. At the same time, he covers the ongoing tug-of-war between themes of "respectability" versus practices derived from an African heritage; the adoption of Christianity by the majority; and the critique of the adoption of the "white man's religion" from the eighteenth century to the present. The book also covers internal cultural, gendered, and class divisions in churches that attracted congregants of widely disparate educational levels, incomes, and worship styles.
Through the Storm, Through the Night
provides a lively overview of the history of African American religion, beginning with the birth of African Christianity amidst the Transatlantic slave trade, and tracing the story through its growth in America. Paul Harvey successfully uses the history of African American religion to portray the complexity and humanity of the African American experience.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-0-7425-6473-2 • Hardback • July 2011 •
978-0-7425-6474-9 • Paperback • October 2013 •
978-0-7425-6475-6 • eBook • July 2011 •
The African American History Series
History / Social History
History / United States / General
Religion / History
Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies
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is professor of history at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He is the author of
Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial Identities Among Southern Baptists, 1865–1925
Freedom's Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era
Introduction: Themes in African American Religious History
Chapter 1: Middle Passage for the Gods: African and African American Religions from the Middle Passage to the Great Awakening
Chapter 2: The Birth of Afro-Christianity in the Slave Quarters and the Urban North, 1740–1831
Chapter 3: Through the Night: African American Religion in the Antebellum Era
Chapter 4: Day of Jubilee: Black Churches from Emancipation to the Era of Jim Crow
Chapter 5: Jesus on the Mainline: Black Christianity from the Great Migration through World War II
Chapter 6: Freedom's Main Line: Black Christianity, Civil Rights, and Religious Pluralism
Epilogue: Righteous Anger and Visionary Dreams: Contemporary Black Politics, Religion, and Culture
Books abound on the African American religious experience in the US, but Harvey's work is a welcome addition and succinct summary of its 400-year history. Typically in such short monographs, detail is sacrificed for brevity, but Harvey (history, Univ. of Colorado, Colorado Springs) packs great substance through insightful biographies and aptly summarized historical events. He argues against any uniform African American church or religious experience, as African Americans experienced varied contacts with Christianity and often mixed traditional African spiritualism and animistic beliefs. Unquestionably, religious beliefs infused the African American community with hope as they struggled through slavery, Jim Crow legislation, segregation, race-oriented violence, and the civil rights movement. Harvey concludes that though the church is still relevant and Christian denominations are still predominant in the African American community, 21st-century immigrants continue to challenge this narrative, as the Orisha traditions of West and Central Africans, Cuban Santería, Haitian Catholicism and Voodoo, Ethiopian Eastern Orthodoxy, and Islamic influences further heighten diversity. The author notes that clannish and local community traditions among these immigrants overshadow any presumed unity based on skin color. In summary, Harvey creates a broad panoramic of the African American religious experience and challenges future scholars to increase scholarly attention to this field.
Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.
The diversity, complexity and tenacity of the African-American religious experience come alive on Harvey’s pages....Harvey’s inclusion of 40 pages of primary sources makes this volume even more valuable for readers interested in an extended encounter with the women and men they meet in
Through the Storm
The Christian Century
This deceptively slim book covers an enormous amount of historical terrain as an overview of African-American faith in America, touching a staggering number of major developments without exhaustively detailing them. Harvey, a professor of history at the University of Colorado, begins by explaining how the slave trade permanently altered religion for African-Americans, then moves on quickly to how the black church later provided cultural survival strategies. The same colonies that argued that the Bible sanctioned slavery hosted Protestant evangelical revivals where African-American Christianity was born. The book expertly pulls together the individual stories of well-known historical figures whose lives were shaped in black churches, the significance of syncretism in African and Caribbean-based religions as reflections of some elements of Christian theology, and the spread of gospel music as a new and influential part of American popular culture. There are some repetitive passages on Voodoo and Yoruba traditions, but the book is almost entirely a good, rigorous starting point for those unfamiliar with the place of African-American Christianity in America’s history.
Harvey, a professor of history, examines the various roles that Christianity has played in the lives of African Americans. He begins at the very beginning, with Africans stolen from their homes bringing their own religious traditions, including both Christianity and Islam, with them to the Americas. The debate (and the rationalizations) among slave owners and other whites about what conversion to Christianity should mean is discussed as well the role the church played during and after the Civil War. Harvey then continues to the modern day, with an emphasis on the church’s place in the civil rights movement. A leitmotiv that threads through the book is the importance of music in African American life and spirituality. The book ends with the dialogue between Barack Obama and his former minister Jeremiah Wright, in which Harvey finds two distinct strands of the black religious experience, 'the righteous jeremiad and the gospel of hope.' The list of primary sources that Harvey appends to the text adds value to what is a solid overview.
Harvey (history, Univ. of Colorado, Colorado Springs) traces the development of African American Christianity from the transatlantic slave trade to the 21st-century megachurch, underscoring how the church served as a crucial institution and forum for African Americans in the United States as the country denied them a voice and equality. Not only did the church help African Americans endure and survive during slavery, but it functioned as a catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement. Harvey highlights important byproducts of the African American religious experience as well, e.g., music such as spirituals, gospel, blues, and even rap. He does not shy away from the criticism that African American Christianity has faced, e.g., for its exuberant style and preachers who have been accused of fraudulence. He covers today’s religious pluralism, in addition to the rise of black megachurches and the 'prosperity gospel.' VERDICT Harvey’s book is a concise and scholarly yet entirely accessible work, appropriate both for interested general readers and students. With charts, a helpful glossary, 'bibliographic essays' on primary and secondary sources, and a time line from 1491 (when the Kingdom of Kongo converted to Christianity) to Barack Obama’s 2008 election).
Harvey provides an elegant and engaging introduction to the history of African American Christianity that charts the diversity of experience and expression among black Christians and illuminates the complex relationship between religion and race in American life.
Judith Weisenfeld, Princeton University
If you teach, study, practice, or care about African American religion, then this is the book for you. Paul Harvey provides an indispensable overview of black Christianity from the age of slavery to the ascendance of Obama. With it, Harvey offers a bevy of fascinating primary documents that range from Nat Turner's righteous rage to Mahalia Jackson's soulful songs.
Through the Storm, Through the Night
does it all with such clarity that even the most complex concepts make sense.
Edward J. Blum, author of W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet
Focuses on how Africans in America flocked to Protestant Christianity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, used their faiths to challenge slavery and then racial segregation, and in the twentieth century became more diverse with massive new immigration after 1965. Harvey is able to show both consensus and conflict.
Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review
• Winner, CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title (2012)
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