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Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South (Galaxy Books) New Ed Edition

22 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195027051
ISBN-10: 0195027051
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--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews


"Excellent....The wealth of research Raboteau has collected makes this the summary on the subject."--M. McGlom, Avila College

"A splendid text for undergraduate students which provides insights into the nature and history of African-American religion, a subject often ignored in religion in America texts."--Bernard H. Cochran, Meredith College

"An excellent, judicious, balanced, carefully researched synthesis--raises the hard questions."--J. Careton Hayden, Univ. of the South

"With this book no American church historian can any longer neglect the black Christian story."--Church History

"Provides a convincing argument for the distinctiveness of black religion."--The Black Perspective in Music

"Sound scholarship, judicious reflection and accessible style....Raboteau provides a good synthesis of recent work on slave religion and buttresses it with his own judgments and research."--Eugene Genovese, The New Republic

"Raboteau is the first to examine in detail the religious life of the slaves....Such a book was long overdue and Raboteau's work will undoubtedly become the standard text on slave religion."--Commonweal

"Indispensable for courses in African-American religion or even in upper division undergraduate courses in American religious history. Keep it in print for manyu years to come."--Rodger Payne, University of Virginia

"It's a classic and it is still an indispensable introduction to the topic. Don't ever let it go out of print!"--Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, Colby College

About the Author

Albert J. Raboteau, Princeton University.


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Product Details

  • Series: Galaxy Books
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (February 7, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195027051
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195027051
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.9 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,554,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on December 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
Albert J. Raboteau originally wrote 'Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South' as an expansion and derivation of his doctoral dissertation, little expecting it to become a classic. This updated version, twenty-five years after its original publication in 1978, includes Raboteau's response to some of the reactions he received over time from various audiences. Citing his friend and mentor Sydney Ahlstrom's prediction, the recovery of African-American history as a subject in its own right also served to revitalise the subject of American religious history, as African-American history cannot be told without a great part of the religious traditions, and the religious history of America cannot be told adequately without incorporation of the African-American experience.

Raboteau writes in terms of recovering voices, particularly for this study, the voices of slaves preserved in narratives from the past. This idea of recovering voices is a strong theme in liberation theologies, and applies in important ways both to secular and religious history (as well as present-day practice). Not only the voices, but also the actual events need to be recovered - as Raboteau points out, before the 1820s, far more Africans made the trans-Atlantic journey to the Americas unwillingly than Europeans of all nationalities and religions. The idea of European development of the New World obscures this important fact.

But just what was slave culture? Was this something distinct and unique? Were there multiple slave cultures?
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Robert W. Kellemen on June 24, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some books are classics; "Slave Religion" is THE Classic in this genre. Raboteau, America's foremost scholar on African American religious history, weaves copious first-hand quotations with insightful, riveting commentary to provide a tremendous foundation for understanding Christianity among the enslaved African Americas.

Chapter after chapter, "Slave Religion" opens deeper and deeper layers of understanding. As you read, you sense Raboteau transporting you back directly into the historical experiences. His writing is so thoroughly researched as well as so adeptly penned, that scholar, student, and lay reader alike can equally enjoy and benefit from it. Peerless.

Reviewer: Bob Kellemen, Ph.D., is the author of "Beyond the Suffering: Embracing the Legacy of African American Soul Care and Spiritual Direction," "Soul Physicians," "Spiritual Friends," and the forthcoming "Sacred Friendships: Listening to the Voices of Women Soul Care-Givers and Spiritual Directors."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Matt Tippens on February 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
Albert J. Raboteau's "Slave Religion" examines the "Invisible Institution," slave religion in the Antebellum South. When Africans arrived in the New World, they were torn from "the political, social, and cultural systems that had ordered their lives" (p. 4). Raboteau explains that one of the few areas in which slaves were able to maintain their culture, linking the African past with the American present, was their religion. African religious beliefs were transformed or adapted to American Christianity. In some parts of the Americas, Raboteau contends, "the gods of Africa continued to live - in exile." (p. 5). Despite the cruelty placed on American slaves and without family and kinship systems, they were still able to develop, create, and assemble a rich and unique culture in the United States. How did they survive and adapt religion to fit their situation? This is what Raboteau attempts to answer. Much of black religious life was "hidden from the eyes of the master" and occurred in the secrecy of the quarters. The slaves combined their African ethnic religion, Muslim religion, and Christianity to form what is called the "Invisible Institution." Slaves were secretive because it was necessary for survival. Through prayer meetings, spirituals, ring shouts, slave preaching, and the conversion experience, slaves were able to adapt African rituals and beliefs to Christianity.

African American religion began out of necessity; the captured Africans needed something to sustain them during the middle passage. Once they arrived, slaves needed someone to administer rituals for special events, such as birth, marriages, illness, death, and other events that required a ceremony.
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25 of 34 people found the following review helpful By b diamond on February 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
Slave Religion is a valuable text. The author does an excellent presentation of the experiences of our ancestors prior to their departure from Africa and their arrival on the plantations. I use this text in a course I teach, The History of the Black Church. The author is to be commended for his research.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Edward E. Goode on July 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book's eminence well precedes my discovering and reading it. I really appreciated Raboteau's ability to pull many sources of information into a highly readable essay on African American life and religion in a new world setting intended to break their spirits while it harnessed their labor.
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