To tell the story of the Black church is something of a risk even to a scholar as secure as Gates, for voices in the arena of racial justice have long diminished religion as overly safe and accommodationist ... Yet Gates writes here as a historian, and the historian can chronicle progress, assess its origins and commemorate its course while noting its incompleteness. 'Violent insurrection would have been a form of racial suicide; insurrection meant death,' Gates writes. So Black Americans used what was at hand (faith and religiously based appeals and action) in the struggle for freedom ... Relying heavily on the voices of myriad scholars and clergy members (often combined in the same person, like Kelly Brown Douglas or Jonathan L. Walton), Gates traces the story back even before Jamestown ... In Gates’s telling, the Black church, too, shines bright even as the nation itself moves uncertainly through the gloaming, seeking justice on earth — as it is in heaven.
Gates, a literary scholar, historian, filmmaker, and best-selling author, looks into how the Black church has molded and transformed the African American experience, from slavery to the present ... Readers will discover how the Black church has prepared African American people for leadership roles in American society, parented the civil rights movement and today’s Black Lives Matter movement, and nurtured numerous talented individuals, including entertainers such as Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle, James Brown, and Marvin Gaye, who honed their talent in church choirs.
A scholarly and intimate look at the Black Church’s prodigious history and potential future ... renowned historian Gates delves into the history of the Black Church, which Harvard historian Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham called 'the single most important institution in the Black community.' ... Refreshingly, the author’s lens is not uncritical: He writes of a still-relevant church, as diverse as the Black experience itself, with struggles and failings, including its treatment of women and the LGBTQ+ community and its dismal response to the 1980s AIDS epidemic. ... Powerful, poignant, and ultimately celebratory. Let the church say, 'Amen!'