TeacherServe Essays

African American Christianity, Pt. I: To the Civil War

Author: Maffly-Kipp, Laurie F. (NHC Fellow, 1993–94)

The story of African-American religion is a tale of variety and creative fusion. Enslaved Africans transported to the New World beginning in the fifteenth century brought with them a wide range of local religious beliefs and practices. This diversity reflected the many cultures and linguistic groups from which they had come. The majority came from the West Coast of Africa, but even within this area religious traditions varied greatly. Islam had also exerted a powerful presence in Africa for several centuries before the start of the slave trade. Catholicism had even established a presence in areas of Africa by the sixteenth century. Preserving African religions in North America proved to be very difficult. The harsh circumstances under which most slaves lived rendered the preservation of religious traditions difficult and often unsuccessful.

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Subjects: History; Education Studies; African American History; Christianity; Slavery; African Diaspora