Black Baptists, African missions, and racial identity, 1800-1915: a case study of African American religion

Black Baptists, African missions, and racial identity, 1800-1915: a case study of African American religion

Sandy Dwayne Martin

The principal argument of this article is that African-American Baptists, representative of the wider community of black Christians during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in their embracing Christianity and pursuing of African missions, found powerful resources and tools in developing and maintaining a strong, positive sense of racial identity during an era of unrestrained racial stereotyping and prejudice. “Positive racial identity” includes a sense on the part of individuals and groups of African ancestry that they were fully human, equal in every respect to any other ethnic or racial group, including European Americans, that they constituted “one people” with a clear mission to make a huge impact on world affairs; and it comprises all the actions and efforts exercised by African Americans to effect a social and religious order reflecting acceptance of such ideals. In other words, I argue that Christianization, primarily, but also its product, African missions, was immensely helpful in promoting African-Americans’ quest for full equality and empowerment. My reading of African-American and American general and religious history is that the African-American churches historically have often fallen far short of their potentials for securing African-American political and economic freedom. Nonetheless, the vast, overwhelming numbers of persons and groups who have successfully labored for racial liberty and justice were leaders and active in the Christian churches or persons who were strongly influenced by the teaching and practice of the black churches regarding freedom and equality. (1)

Some of the most prominent individuals and groups in the black freedom struggle certainly include Richard Allen, James Walker Hood, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Hiram Revels, Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. (2) Even those persons who eventually adopted theological stances that placed them at variance with many orthodox Christian doctrines or membership in a church, such as Du Bois and Washington, were, nevertheless, strongly influenced by the ethical and moral teachings of the Christian faith in the construction of their social, political, and economic philosophies and strategies for racial empowerment. (3)

While most of those reading these words are already convinced or stand willing to be persuaded by the claim of the central role of the Christian faith and church in African-American quests for equality, there are still those in and outside of academia, including many students of the African-American experience, who doubt the veracity of this claim–if they do not contest it outright. Successfully making the broader argument, regarding the indispensable and instrumental role of Christianity in the black freedom struggle, would require a book- length presentation. This article simply case studies black Baptists as a contribution to the development of that broader argument.

Africa, Religion, and the Slave Trade

It is important to realize that African Americans in this country and other places in the western hemisphere created and were the products of a process of Africanization that has largely eluded continental Africans to the present day. On the continent, one’s primary identity was ethnic not racial. African peoples were foremost Yoruba, Akan, Ewe, Ibo, Ashanti, etc. The trading in African peoples as slaves, both with the Arabs and the Europeans, was possible largely because African peoples did not envision themselves as a single racial or ethnic identity commensurate with that of their trading partners, the Arabs in East, and the Europeans in West Africa. Europeans did not sell white slaves to Africans. Arabs did not sell other Arabs to African slaveholders. By the inauguration of the European age of expansion, colonization, and conquest, African peoples were the only ones selling great numbers of their racial kin to “outsiders.” Why was this the case? First, being a European had become largely synonymous with being Christian as had Arabic with being Islamic. No Muslim or Christian would dare sell a brother or sister in the faith to an “infidel” or “unbeliever,” particularly since the practitioners of these religions regarded their respective faiths as either the only way to salvation or at the very least far superior to any other. While African ethnic groups shared many theological and ritual similarities, their religions were largely ethnic-based, non-exclusionary, lacking the type of proselytizing or missionary imperative of Islam or Christianity. (4)

Thus, the practice of religion was mainly not a factor for Africans in the trade in slaves. To phrase it another way, Africans had no one single religion to unite them as a race or collection of ethnic groups. Yes, Islam was practiced in many areas of Africa, including western Africa. Contrary to what we might read by Malcolm X or contemporary apologists for Islam, that religion was far from being antislavery, particularly as it applied to non-Muslims. Thus, there was no religious reason why an African of one ethnic group would not sell an African of another group to anyone with the appropriate compensation; nor was there any reason why an African Muslim would not sell an a fellow African who was an “unbeliever.” (5)

Not only did Africans lack a religion unifying them across ethnic lines; they were farther behind Europeans and even Arabs in “discovering” the idea of race. In part because of their shared religion, English, German, Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese saw each other as “whites,” as members of what would subsequently be known as a racial category. Vis-a-vis Africans, Arabs, thanks in large part to the unifying role of Islam, saw themselves across ethnic lines as one people. In other words, the African slave trade, in both its African-European and African-Arabian dimensions, was a tragic affair of sheer brutality resulting in depopulating and destablizing Africa. It was also an episode in which the African partners were no match ideologically for the Arabs and Europeans. The Africans were divided by ethnicity and religion; Arabs and Europeans had to contend with ethnic differentiations among themselves, but each group had a single religion and an emerging sense of single racial identity binding them together. To be sure, African peoples, trading each other to groups with trans-ethnic religious unity and emerging senses of single racial kin, were willing and inexcusable players in a horror that (though they might not have been aware of all ramifications for Africans throughout the world) stamped to this very day persons of African descent in all the diaspora as a race of slaves. African slave traders were not victims but equal oppressors in this trade in human lives.

From Africans in America to African Americans

Thus, when Africans of different ethnic groups were brought by Europeans to what is now the United States of America, they came with slave traders and slave holders who regarded them all as essentially the same: Africans. Here and there, whites might speak of various ethnic groups or “tribes” of Africans, but with whites various ethnic identities of Africans meant little or nothing regarding the manner in which blacks of all ethnic groups would be labeled “Africans” and reduced to chattel bondage. As we all know very sadly, however, this placing of all blacks into one category even applied to those who converted to Christianity. Even to whites who were Christians in early America–which were not very many–the identity of blacks as one people, Africans, regardless of ethnic group membership, meant far more than an interracially shared experience of being Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian, and so forth. Whites identified each other as one by both race and religion (excluding the relatively few numbers of Jews) and identified blacks as African, i.e., “foreign” in race, an identity so powerful with whites that in most instances it surpassed Christian fellowship as a bond of identity and as a rule for freedom and justice in matters involving Africans in America. Hence, whether they liked it or not, black peoples from various ethnic backgrounds had to accept the social reality that they were Africans in America. However brutal and unjust their situation, these Africans in America, unlike their kin on the mother continent, finally had two bonds that firmly united them for good or ill, setting them off from whites: race and racially-based chattel slavery.

As Africans in America became Christianized, they did not lose their distinction as Africans, but their new religion did give that label new meaning and power. We know that from the earliest decades of their enslaved sojourn in North America, some Africans converted to Christianity, e.g., Congregationalism, Anglicanism, and Quakerism. (6) But it was not until the evangelical awakenings of the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries that we see very large numbers of Africans embracing Christianity. There are many reasons provided by historians to explain the appeal of evangelical Protestantism for these Africans in America, including the antislavery position of some white revivalists, the proselytizing fervor of white evangelicals toward blacks.

From a more black-centered perspective, evangelical Christianity spread so successfully among Africans in America not simply because of the fervor and extensive missionary work of white preachers and leaders. We must understand that evangelical Christianity was shared by Blacks, Whites, and Native Americans and communicated to Blacks, Whites, and Native Americans by Blacks, Whites, and Native Americans. In other words, evangelical Protestantism was a religion where every born-again child of God had the opportunity for a form of ministry. What was important was not seminary education or even official ordination by an established religious organization, but the direct, definite call of God on the individual. (7) Thus, enslaved blacks, with or without ordination, became de facto pastors in the enslaved community. Women who were not expected to take public leadership roles were nonetheless missionaries as they spread the gospel among blacks and whites by word and deeds of love.

Evangelical Christianity often had a very strong antislavery edge to it or at the very least an insistence that in the eyes of God the slaveholder and the enslaved were equal and that spiritual understanding should reflect itself in concrete behavior. It is often noted that the nature of evangelical Christianity was that each convert had a direct experience with God and each person lived in close communion with God, obviating the need to focus on creeds, prescribed prayers, and catechisms, the last of which when composed for the enslaved were often pro-slavery and racist. We should also emphasize, however, that this sense of spiritual immediacy is characteristic of African religions, one of the points that various ethnic expressions of African religion share with each other.

These evangelical traits–antislavery and brother/sisterhood, broad participation and inclusion, immediacy of the divine realm, and similarity with African traditional religions–all point to and fortify another significant element of Christianity in general and evangelical Protestantism in particular: the power to unify and form a common identity within the African-American community. In Christianity, Africans of various ethnic groups and backgrounds found a religion that brought them together under teachings about the providence of one God who desired to form all peoples into one people. Now, like European Americans, they were united by the emerging sense of race and a developing religious consensus, bound by one racial identity and one religion. As blacks in the United States became Christians, they made a transition from African peoples in America to an African-American people. I would not be so provincial in my reading of religious studies and history as to suggest that Christianity was solely responsible for the making of an African-American people, but I do insist that this religion, particularly its evangelical variety, was a major if not the most principal factor in this evolution.

Evangelical Protestantism as the Black-Christian Consensus

Why did Christianity, most notably evangelical Protestantism, become the one religion of unity, consensus, and identity among African Americans? (8) Evangelical Christianity much more than other religious expressions seems to have been especially suited for playing such a key role for American blacks. Catechetical or non-evangelical Christianity often lacked the quality and quantity of the above mentioned traits. Traditional African religions did not survive as religious systems because of a number of demographic factors, such as African-European ratios, the size of African importations into given areas, and the conscious intention of North American slave traders and slaveholders to separate persons belonging to given ethnic groups. (9) Islam, a monotheistic and missionary-oriented religion, would have been expected to have made a greater numerical impact among African Americans. Some scholars argue that traditional African religions and Islam failed to win the consensus of black allegiance because the slave system consciously and persistently circumscribed and prohibited religions among the enslaved other than Christianity. While there is an element of truth in this statement, it is largely an incorrect argument. Slaveholders, who for the most part were not themselves Christians, were not particularly devoted to proselytizing blacks with any religion. By and large, slaveholders through the early nineteenth century were hostile to, suspicious of, or largely indifferent to the Christianization of the enslaved given the religion’s egalitarian aspects. Even after the establishment of distinctly white-controlled southern denominations, such as the Southern Baptist Convention, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and their counterparts, most slaveholders remained cautious and uneasy about even proslavery plantation missions among the enslaved.

Nor can the demise or lack of growth of traditional African religions and Islam be a result of the lack of numbers. Most Africans arriving in the United States were practitioners of traditional religions, which while different, nonetheless, shared a great number of traits that allowed African-based religions to flourish in other portions of the western hemisphere, e.g., Cuba, Haiti, and Brazil. It has been estimated that anywhere from 6 percent to 20 percent of all imported Africans were from predominantly Islamic regions of western Africa. Even if we accept a more conservative range of 6 to 10 percent, we would still expect a greater Islamic challenge to the Black Christian Consensus around evangelical Protestantism. (10)

Undoubtedly, these African religions and Islam were practiced by a significant number of African Americans especially between 1620 and 1800 but eventually were eclipsed by evangelical Protestantism. I would suggest that the failure of African religions and Islam to capture the consensus resides partially in the possibility that these religions did not play a unifying role in the black community as did evangelicalism. The traditional African religions, while they taught the immediacy of lesser deities and spiritual powers and recognized the existence of one Supreme Being, did not offer the immediacy of the one Supreme God to each person or that High God’s close superintendency of the entire faithful community. Islam by contrast did present such an immediate monotheistic God who superintended all human endeavors. Its weaknesses regarding capturing the black consensus lay elsewhere. In the mid-twentieth century, spokespersons, such as Malcolm X, harshly criticized Christianity as a “slave religion.” Christianity was not a slave religion in the sense that slaveholders and their sympathizers imposed the faith on the enslaved and thereby succeeded in stamping out their desires and concrete efforts for freedom. A careful reading of general and religious American history reveals that Christianity was often the most potent factor among whites and blacks in the quest for temporal freedom for African Americans.

But Christianity, including its Baptist manifestation, was in many ways more eminently suited than Islam for the American (U.S.) enslaved context. There were no ritually prescribed daily prayers for which one had to prepare oneself by ritual cleansing. There was no obligation of making a pilgrimage to a distant holy site. Nor were there the concerns for religious dietary restrictions or the need to learn another language (Arabic) other than the one in current fashion. To be sure, one could practice Islam under enslaved conditions, for Islam recognizes that certain situations mandate that the faithful postpone performance of a duty until later and that God forgives one’s inability to keep a proscribed activity because of factors beyond one’s control.

Nonetheless, the enslaved Muslim experience of having to postpone or abstain from activities so central to that religious faith, e.g., the keeping of some of the Five Pillars of Religious Duty, would, apparently, produce a profound sense of “spiritual regret.” The enslaved Baptist regretted and sorrowed over the inability in many instances to maintain family cohesion because of the auction block (as did the Muslim). Yet, he or she could find myriad ways under even the most inhumane practice of chattel slavery to keep the essence of the faith–an essence far removed from strict adherence to rituals, diet, and sacred pilgrimages–an essence that included being “born again,” spreading the Word, loving God with one’s entire being, loving one’s neighbor as oneself, having religious services where any two or three gathered (whether in the segregated gallery of a white controlled congregation, behind the closed doors of slave cabins, or in the forests and ditches of the farm). (11)

Christianity: A Solid Defense Against Racism

Whether enslaved or free, African Americans well into the twentieth century faced an assault on their very humanity. White medical doctors, philosophers, historians, and sometimes even clergy propounded the notion that blacks had no history, were incapable of ever making any significant contributions to civilization other than physical labor or menial work, and were, bluntly speaking, inferior. In some cases, the purveyors of “intellectual” racism even denied blacks membership in the same human species as whites. (12) As they explored the Bible, as readers or as recipients of oral accounts of the readings, blacks found their most powerful weapon against racism and claimed for themselves a destiny. Though enslaved, they dared to believe that the God of the biblical exodus would intervene in history in the near future to liberate them or their children from bondage and support them on the sacred mission to spread Christianity and true democracy. If racially prejudiced Darwinists and medical experts denied African racial equality or membership in the human race, the creation accounts of Genesis, God’s universal salvific offer in both Old and New Testaments, and the prophecy of the salvation of the faithful from all parts of the world in Revelation, belied these assertions.

When racist historians declared that African peoples had no history, the average black Baptist could explore the genealogical tables in Genesis and, far from concluding that the descendants of Ham had been cursed by God, claim for black people a glorious past that included the Egyptians, Ethiopians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and a significant presence among the ancient Hebrews or Jews. (13) While some contemporary historical and religious scholars might argue that black Baptists took these genealogical tables too literally, these same scholars would do well to upbraid themselves for their continued and shameful practice of reading Africa and non-enslaved Africans and their many contributions out of history and the Bible.

Black Baptists and other Christians also saw biblical passages they regarded as prophecies and a divine mandate for an African American mission culminating in the eventual temporal triumph and glorification of the black race throughout the world. Probably the single Scripture with the most attestation in writing is Psalm 63:31. (14) Reading the King James Version of this Scripture, black Christians interpreted this as a prophecy that the black race (Ethiopia) would be converted to Christianity and that the race (Egypt) would have a prominent political place in world affairs. More recent translations may appear to diminish somewhat the strength of prophetic interpretation that black Christians saw in this passage, (15) but there are other Scriptures, particularly in Isaiah, that could serve the same interpretive function and with a greater foundation in the original text. We note that these black Christians understood, far more than many contemporary observers, that Egypt was in Africa. Contrary to attempts to whiten the entire population of Egyptian rulers and a considerable percentage of even the Ethiopians, these black Christians reasonably insisted that these ancient populations were African in racial/ethnic classification.

Thus, when black Baptists saw the names Egypt and Ethiopia mentioned in biblical, prophecies or historical accounts, they identified themselves with these ancient peoples, for Egyptians, Ethiopians, and African Americans were all racially one people–Africans. If racialists would assert that a single drop of African blood classified one as an African or black, then these Christians took the single drop rule, claimed African presence in the Bible and other ancient documents, and developed a Pan-Africanist worldview. The enslavers and the racialists had placed all African peoples into the single category of African, and these African Americans utilized their evangelical Christian faith and reading/hearing of the Bible to claim God’s providential mission for the African all over the world.

Independent Black Churches and Overseas Missions

Two of the most tangible manifestations of this African identity and providential mission were (1) the establishment of independent black churches, associations, conventions, and denominations during the 1700s and the 1800s; and (2) the involvement in missions to Africa and other black lands. According to our best current knowledge, the earliest independent black congregations to form and the ones with the longest continuous, uninterrupted history were/are Baptist. It is significant that many of these early congregations carried the name African in their titles, e.g., First African Baptist Church in a number of areas, including one of the oldest black churches in Savannah–the other being First Bryan Baptist. Though black Baptists apparently took the first step in establishing separate congregations, their evangelical counterparts, the Methodists, initiated the forming of the first denominations. Interestingly, these groups also carried the African appellation: Union Church of Africans (1813), the African Methodist Episcopal Church (1816), the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (ca. 1822). (16) While later organized denominations would substitute “Colored” for African, the basic idea that people were consciously organizing institutions of and for black people, but without the racial exclusion of many of white bodies, clearly illustrates the presence of a racial identity and sense of mission.

Prior to the conclusion of the nineteenth century, many black Baptists at the local, state, regional, and national levels would eschew entirely the adopting of racially specific names in the titles of their newly organized religious bodies. Hence, we see the emergence of the Providence Baptist Association, the Virginia Baptist State Convention, the National Baptist Convention, and hardly any First or Second African Baptist Churches but a great number of Shiloh, Mount Carmel, and St. James Baptist Churches. Nevertheless, that African Americans were gladly forming ecclesial entities separate from their white siblings and sometimes refusing even cooperative ventures with them demonstrates that the reasons for separate African or black organizations were still operative: escaping racist practices, having opportunities for freer styles of worship, conducting greater evangelistic and humanitarian work among blacks, securing ordination and other forms of leadership, and fighting slavery and thereafter racial discrimination.

Another motivating factor in the founding of independent black churches and organizations was the firm belief on the part of African-American Christians that they were the true practitioners of Christianity. We must be careful that we do not mischaracterize black churches as imitations of whites. One of the key challenges in religious studies is examining the degree to which black and white bodies, especially when they are participants in the same theological or denominational tradition, are similar and how they are different. It does not require much reflection to understand why Christians held in chattel slavery would question the sincerity or the spiritual comprehension of professing Christians who oppressed them, supported their enslavement, or were indifferent to their plight. But even white Christians in free states, who often were very antislavery in sentiment and action, were often supportive of segregation and discrimination against black church members or would refuse public acknowledgment of their black associates. It was clear to nineteenth-and early twentieth-century church leaders, such as Henry M. Turner, the AME bishop, and to James Walker Hood, an AME Zion bishop, that it was the black church that faithfully preached the authentic doctrine of human brother-and sisterhood and understood the Christian necessity of applying that principle in socio-economic and political spheres. (17) Yes, it was the African American Christian community that would lead the country to the true meaning of Christianity and American democracy. (18)

This sense of mission of African-American Baptists and other Christians as God’s chosen instruments to spread Christianity and democracy extended beyond the borders of their native country to include their ancestral land of Africa and their racial kin in other places. The important tool in carrying forth this divine mandate was the overseas missions program. Whereas black Christians understood that the Great Mandate obligated them to help spread the gospel to all peoples, regardless of race or ethnic background, they envisioned their special mission as directed to those of African descent for two principal reasons. First, in their understanding and that of many whites during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, African-American Christians who had been schooled in western civilization were much better qualified than their white counterparts to work among black peoples because they were suited culturally and most equipped physically better to survive environmental conditions of their ancestral Africa. Second, often whites directed mission efforts to peoples other than those of African descent; and when white missionaries did enter black mission fields, their racial chauvinism sometimes disadvantaged their Christian witness.

Black Baptists were among the first to organize African and overseas missions activities. (19) The interruption of the early black Baptist church movements in South Carolina and Georgia during the Revolutionary 1770s eventually resulted in George Liele moving to Jamaica to establish the first Baptist church there. David George’s sojourn took him to Nova Scotia and eventually to Sierra Leone where he and other colonists established the first Baptist church on the continent. In 1815, Lott Carey and Hilary Teague along with a white deacon, William Crane, of Richmond, Virginia, organized the Richmond African Baptist Foreign Missionary Society. Working in conjunction with the newly organized Baptist Triennial Convention, and from 1845 with the Southern Baptist Convention, and with the American Colonization Society, the society sponsored missionary sojourns to west Africa. Carey and Teague in the early 1820s were among the first “missionary colonists” arriving in the future republic of Liberia. As “missionary colonists,” they settled permanently in the land and sought to spread Christianity and “civilization” to the indigenous African inhabitants. After the Civil War, Virginia Baptists would be among the first organized black state conventions and would be in the forefront of overseas missions well into the twentieth century. The Baptist Foreign Mission Convention, organized in 1880, the National Baptist Convention, established in 1895, the Lott Carey Baptist Convention, started in 1897, and other Baptists and non-Baptists groups would continue this African tradition with some establishing missions in Cuba, Haiti, and other areas of the Americas.


Thus, the twentieth century began with African-American Baptists having a strong sense of racial identity, pride, and mission grounded in large part on their commitment to and application of the Christian faith. This Christian- supported racial identity served blacks well as they fought with and, with the help of nonblack sympathizers, later overcame most overt forms of Jim Crow segregation and denial of constitutional liberties. In a sense, the Civil Rights Movement did not begin with the Baptist pastor, Martin Luther King Jr., and others in 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, or even a year earlier with the Supreme Court decision outlawing racial segregation in public schools. Rather, the quest for freedom began with the enslavement of the first African, and the Black Christian Consensus has helped immensely to catapult that freedom struggle to its heights during certain moments of history, such as the abolitionist movement, Reconstruction, and the Civil Rights Movement. I would argue that a combination of things–black nationalism of an overly secularistic and atheistic variety, breakdown of the African-American two-parent home, the triumph of political conservatism in a number of areas, infusion of drugs and materialism in American society–has severely compromised that Christian-based racial identity. But that is a subject for another article.

(1.) For histories of African-American religion, see Carter G. Woodson, History of the Negro Church, 3rd ed. (Washington, D.C.: Associated Publishers, 1972; originally published 1921); Milton C. Sernett, ed., Afro-American Religious History: A Documentary Witness (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1985); and a short introductory account, Albert J. Raboteau, African American Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

(2.) The Sernett collection listed above is a good source for the original works of many of these leaders.

(3.) See, e.g., David Levering Lewis, ed., W. E. B. Du Bois: A Reader (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1995), esp. “Credo,” 105-06.

(4.) For information on African traditional religions, see E. Bolaji Idowu, African Traditional Religion: A Definition (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1973); John S. Mbiti, Introduction to African Religion (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1975); and Edward Geoffrey Parrinder, West African Religion: A Study of the Beliefs and Practices of Akan, Ewe, Yoruba, Ibo, and Kindred Peoples (New York: Barnes and Nobles, 1970).

(5) See Mervyn Hiskett, The Development of Islam in West Africa (London and New York: Longman, 1984).

(6.) Woodson, Negro Church,, 1-19.

(7.) Donald G. Mathews, Religion in the Old South (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977) is a good treatment of evangelicalism in the antebellum South. He deals with evangelical applications and implications in areas involving blacks, whites, and women in the South.

(8.) The statistics by C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence H. Mamiya attest to the overwhelming affiliation of religious blacks to the evangelical traditions of the Baptists, Methodists, and Pentecostal/Holiness, about 80%. See their The Black Church in the African American Experience (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990).

(9.) The first two chapters of Albert Raboteau’s study on slave religion examine the major characteristics of African traditional religions and why African-based religions had a greater survival rate in areas of the Americas other than mainland North America. See his Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 3-93, but especially 87-92.

(10.) Fortunately, Islam’s presence in America, including among African Americans, is receiving increased and well-deserved scholarly attention. See, e.g., Allan D. Austin, African Muslims in Antebellum America (New York: Routledge, 1997); Richard Brent Turner, Islam in the African-American Experience (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997); and Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad and John L. Esposito, Muslims on the Americanization Path? (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). Chapters 8, 9, 10 focus on the African American Islamic experience, and one might encounter a significantly different interpretation of the Muslim presence in black America than that appearing in this article.

(11.) See Raboteau, Slave Religion.

(12.) A good, comprehensive account of white racial attitudes toward blacks is George M. Frederickson, The Black Image in the White Mind: The Debate on Afro-American Character and Destiny, 1817-1914 (New York: Harper & Row, 1972).

(13.) For an example of black Christian biblical interpretation during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Sandy Dwayne Martin, “Biblical Interpretation, Ecclesiology, and Black Southern Religious Leaders, 1860-1920: A Case Study of AMEZ Bishop James Walker Hood,” in Alonzo Johnson and Paul Jersilds, eds. Ain’t Gonna Lay My `Ligion Down: African American Religion in the South (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996), 110-38.

(14.) For an examination of the sense of destiny among African-American Christians during the 1700s and the 1800s, see Albert J. Raboteau, A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History (Boston: Beacon, 1995), 17-56.

(15.) For example, “Let bronze be brought from Egypt; let Ethiopia hasten to stretch out her hands to God,” Revised Standard Version of Psalms 68:31.

(16.) See Woodson, Negro Church; Sernett, Afro-American Religious History. Often the African Union Church tradition is overlooked when discussing the origins of the black denominations, but see Lewis V. Baldwin, The Mark of a Man: Peter Spencer and the African Union Methodist Tradition (New York: University Press of America, 1987).

(17.) For accounts of Hood and Turner, see Sandy Dwayne Martin, For God and Race: The Religious and Political Leadership of AMEZ Bishop James Walker Hood (Columbia: The University of South Carolina, 1999); and Stephen Ward Angell, Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and African-American Religion in the South (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1992).

(18.) See Leonard I. Sweet, Black Images of America, 1784-1870 (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1976) for a historical treatment of black self-identity and mission.

(19.) For a historical treatment of the black Baptist African missions movement, see Sandy D. Martin, Black Baptists and African Missions: The Origins of a Movement, 1880-1915 (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1989).

Sandy Dwayne Martin is professor or religion and head, Department of Religion, University of Georgia.

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