African American Religious Cultures is a potential rival to the Encyclopedia of African and African American Religions (2001). The first part of the set is made up of A–Z entries, and the second part contains essays covering broader-based themes. The average A–Z entry in part 1 is six pages long, with a two- to five-source bibliography. Most of the obvious topics are covered, particularly faith groups, with an emphasis on Christian denominations like Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and United Methodist churches. The focus is anything but biographical, although small text boxes devoted to individuals bearing some connection to the topic being considered.are lightly scattered throughout. Malcolm X and Louis Farrakhan each has a box with a paragraph’s worth of biography. Surprisingly, only a brief paragraph is afforded to the quintessential African American religious figure: Martin Luther King Jr. Although some of the entries have a connection to culture, most are those one would expect to find in a religious reference work. The second part of the set focuses on themes such as gender, environment, preaching, mega-churches, and politics—all with a religious vantage point. The “Essays” section is followed by a chronology and a selection of primary documents. One weakness is a lack of cross-references, although the impressive index helps make up for this. The tone of the works is suitable for most academic and large public libraries. Highly recommended. Also available as an e-book. --Wade Osburn
• Offers broader coverage than other volumes on African American religious cultures, spanning the full range of faiths as they have developed over the past four centuries
• Looks at the current state of African American religion and the impact of economic, political, and social factors on beliefs and practices
• Highlights both major and minor traditions, revealing a number of unexpected comparisons and contrasts
• Over 80 alphabetically organized entries on religious traditions embraced by African Americans, covering their historical development, doctrines, rituals, and key figures
• Over 50 contributors, each a distinguished scholar familiar with the richness of African American religious life
"This is a valuable work for any college or public library with a large African American population."
"Scholars of history, religion, and other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences provide short entries and more substantial essays about the myriad religious cultures among Africans and people of African descent throughout the Western Hemisphere. Among topics of the entries are African Americans in various Christian denominations, Catimbó, maroons, the Nation of Islam, the Orisha religion in Trinidad, Rastafari, Santería, Shrine of the Black Madonna, Umbanda, and Wicca. The essays consider broader areas of African American religion such as literature and religion, preaching and sermonic traditions, healing and health, popular culture, the urban context, education, the psychology of religious behavior, and worship. A chronology is provided, along with appendices containing primary documents and short essays on related topics. The two volumes are paged and indexed together."
Reference & Research Book News
"[A]n outstanding 2-volume set packed with Afro-American religious and cultural history and deserves a spot in any high school to college-level collection . . . this is a 'must' for any serious black history or spiritual collection."
Midwest Book Review
"The vividly written entries evince a rare combination of scholarship and accessibility, making this work appropriate for both academic and larger public libraries."
"The tone of [this] work is suitable for most academic and large public libraries. Highly recommended."
"This title will be highly useful in both academic and public libraries and will appeal to numerous audiences, including
the general public, the African American community, laypersons, religious professionals, faculty, and students. . . . Highly recommended. Lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers."