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Your Spirits Walk Beside Us

Your Spirits Walk Beside Us

The Politics of Black Religion

Barbara Dianne Savage

ISBN 9780674066274

Publication date: 10/22/2012

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Even before the emergence of the civil rights movement with black churches at its center, African American religion and progressive politics were assumed to be inextricably intertwined. In her revelatory book, Barbara Savage counters this assumption with the story of a highly diversified religious community whose debates over engagement in the struggle for racial equality were as vigorous as they were persistent. Rather than inevitable allies, black churches and political activists have been uneasy and contentious partners.

From the 1920s on, some of the best African American minds—W. E. B. Du Bois, Carter G. Woodson, Benjamin Mays, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Mary McLeod Bethune, Charles S. Johnson, and others—argued tirelessly about the churches’ responsibility in the quest for racial justice. Could they be a liberal force, or would they be a constraint on progress? There was no single, unified black church but rather many churches marked by enormous intellectual, theological, and political differences and independence. Yet, confronted by racial discrimination and poverty, churches were called upon again and again to come together as savior institutions for black communities.

The tension between faith and political activism in black churches testifies to the difficult and unpredictable project of coupling religion and politics in the twentieth century. By retrieving the people, the polemics, and the power of the spiritual that animated African American political life, Savage has dramatically demonstrated the challenge to all religious institutions seeking political change in our time.

Praise

  • Today when black religious leadership and ideas have been thrust into the race for the American presidency, Barbara Savage helps to sift through the myriad and longstanding debates over black religion and politics. In this powerfully written and compelling book, Savage brings profound clarity to the institution that remains at the center of black spiritual and community life.

    —Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, author of Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church

Awards

  • 2012, Winner of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion

Author

  • Barbara Dianne Savage is Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania.

Book Details

  • 368 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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