AFRICAN AMERICAN CHURCH/CIVIL RIGHTS
“The black man’s pilgrimage in America was made less onerous because of his religion. His religion was the organizing principle around which his life was structure. His church was his school, his forum, his political arena, his social club, his art gallery, and his conservatory of music. It was lyceum and gymnasium as well as sanctum sanctorum.” –Foreword in Gayraud S. Wilmore’s Black Religion and Black Radicalism
“We must not become bitter, nor must we harbor the desire to retaliate with violence. No, we must not lose faith in our white brothers. Somehow we must believe that the most misguided among them can learn to respect the dignity and the worth of all human personality.”—Dr. Martin Luther King, Sermon excerpt from 16th Street Baptist Church, September 1963
COURSE DESCRIPTION & OBJECTIVES
RELS 3150. 001. African-American Church and Civil Rights. Cross-listed with AFRS 3050.
Designed to introduce students to the history of the Black Protestant Church and its expanding presence in the Modern Civil Rights Movement, this course investigates the role that Christianity played in the struggle for civil rights in America. The activism of such figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Rosa Parks, and Septima Clark will be points of exploration. Cultural or Historical Analysis.
RELS 3150/AFRS3150/HST 3000 also looks at the issues of ethnicity and race within the academic study of religion. Historically, issues of ethnicity have been considered from the perspectives of the dominant group, which does not perceive itself as an ethnic group, but rather as the “norm” against which all other group’s cultures, beliefs, and practices are to be evaluated. In this course, we will be approaching issues of ethnicity from the perspective of people’s considered “other” and particular, people’s of African descent. Included in this approach is an eye to how issues of gender intersect with concerns of ethnicity.
The line of questioning within this course centers around four main questions?
1) What does it mean to be “Black” in light of the messages proclaimed in the religions of Christianity and variations of Islam in America?
2) How have people of African descent perceived the reality of the sacred in historic movements of liberation?
3) What are the social and sacred constructions of such racial categories as “blackness,” “whiteness,” and “other”?
4) How did the racial and religious interactions of the Modern Civil Rights Movement shape American racial consciousness today?
In light of these questions, RELS3150/AFRS3150/ HIST 3000 approaches the study of the African American Protestant Church and the Nation of Islam from a tolerant, cross-cultural, and critical view. In other words, this course is not afraid to question the validity of scriptural interpretations, traditional images of the divine, as well as the perceived contributions of such figures as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, and Septima Poinsette Clark. Key Here: The traditions of Christianity and versions of Islam are not of primary focus in this course. These traditions are secondary to the main focus of the course, which is to address how race and religion intersect within the Modern Civil Rights Movement and its institutional formations.