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Black Communities in America

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In this essay I will discuss the unique experiences of the African American Religion experience and how it first came to be known. The existence of black communities in America is due to the slave trade of numerous European countries from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. Traditionally the study of African-American religion has limited itself to either the methodology of the social sciences or the confessional perspective of an explicit tradition. According to historian, Charles H. Long African American religion has a broad interpretation that gives attention to symbolic images as well as interpretive principles. The religion of this culture has not been overlooked. There are two kinds of studies: those arising from social sciences, and an explicitly theological apologetic tradition. This limitation of methodological perspectives has become the reason to a narrowness of understanding and the failure to perceive certain creative possibilities in the black community in America. Furthermore Joseph Washington has interpreted that black religion is not to be understood as black imitation of the religion of the majority population. Black religion is a kind of initial ordering of the religious experiences and expressions of the black communities in America. This religion expresses what we can call our own because of the hardships endured by our ancestors and how they dealt with their problems.

This particular study should not be associated with Christianity, or any other religion. Black religion is rather an attempt to see what kind of images and meanings lie behind the religious experiences of the black communities in America. There are three interrelated perspectives for a study of black religion from the point of view of a historian of religion. Charles H. Long thoroughly examines how these perspectives constitute symbolic images as well as methodological principles by exemplifying Africa as historical reality and religious image, explaining the involuntary presence of the black community in America and disclaiming the experience and symbol of God in the religious experience of blacks.

The image of Africa as it appears in black religion is unique. The image of Africa is an image related to historical beginnings, which has been one of the primordial religious images of great significance. Although slavery greatly restricted the ability of Americans of African descent to practice their cultural traditions, many practices, values, and beliefs survived and over time have modified or blended with white culture. There are some facets of African-American culture that were accentuated by the slavery period. The result is a unique and dynamic culture that has had and continues to have a profound impact on mainstream American culture, as well as the culture of the broader world. After emancipation, unique African-American traditions continued to flourish, as distinctive traditions or radical innovations in music, art, literature, religion, cuisine, and other fields. For many years African-American culture developed separately from mainstream American culture, both because of slavery and the persistence of racial discrimination in America, as well as African-American slave descendants' desire to create and maintain their own traditions. Today, African-American culture has become a significant part of American culture and yet, at the same time, remains a distinct cultural body. This constitutes the religious revalorization of the land, a place where the natural and ordinary gestures of the black man were and could be authenticated.

As a slave many had to understand their condition and at the same time oppose it. They also experienced the truth of negativity and while doing so transformed and created another reality. After receiving the limitations appointed upon them, they created on the level of religious consciousness. Besides transformation, the slaves were able to produce new cultural forms and its significance must be understood from the point of view of the creativity of the transforming process itself. The actuality of this can be shown through the examples on (page 28). Slaves use the music of Blues as another expression of the same consciousness. Exemplified here is a religious consciousness that has experienced the hardship of life, weather the form that power to resist and yet maintain one's humanity has emerged. Although worship and religious life of blacks have commonly been referred to as forms escapism, one must always remember that there has always been an integral relationship between the hardship of life and the ecstasy of religious worship.

The Black Church has more history behind it than most may actually think. Although it was a place where blacks went to worship, it has more meaning than just that. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham describes that a fuller understanding of the African-American church must address gender as well as race and class. She also argues that a more complete examination of women in black churches must also look beyond female preachers. The years of 1880 and 1920, are known as the "woman's



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