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Your Spirits Walk Beside Us: The Politics of Black Religion Hardcover – December 21, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press (December 21, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674031776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674031777
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,056,976 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With the recent controversy over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, much attention has been recently paid to the topic of the black church in America. Yet historian Savage shows in her book that "there is no such thing as the 'black church.' " Countering the image of a monolithic institution, Savage instead portrays the theological, economic and social diversity within black churches. Through biographical vignettes, Savage spans the 20th-century black religious experience, focusing on the ever-present question African-Americans asked about the role their churches should play in the politics for racial justice. Savage's greatest contribution is her restoration of black women to a central place in black religious experience. Though women formed the vast majority of those in the pews, most historians have focused on the male ministers who led the congregations. Savage argues for the importance of Mary McLeod Bethune, Nannie Helen Burroughs, and Fannie Lou Hamer, among others. A concluding chapter on Barack Obama and Wright smartly observes how Wright himself downplayed black religious diversity to make his defense of the black church. (Nov.)
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From Booklist

The debate about the role and relevance of religion in the social and political lives of African Americans has raged since the days of slavery. Historian Savage focuses on the period from the turn of the twentieth century, a time of tension between science and faith as more and more black Americans sought education and as racial inequalities and exploitation left black Americans as much in need of spiritual succor as ever. As black Americans adjusted to life in urban areas, and to the attendant racial discrimination and segregation, the black church became the only indigenous institution with the stability and influence to effect change within and outside the community, giving rise to the notion of “the black church” despite what was actually a great diversity of religious institutions. Savage focuses on diverse figures from the early 1900s through the current day, including Marcus Garvey, sociologist W. E. B. DuBois, and activist Marian Wright Edelman. She explores changes in how religion has been viewed and how it has been used as a political and social engine as much as for spiritual uplift. --Vanessa Bush

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Vaughn Booker Jr. on August 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In Your Spirits Walk Beside Us, Professor Savage sets out to discuss the important history of theorizing about the practice of religion in black America while being attentive to critical thinkers and activists in black history whose rhetoric concerned the link between black social progress and the role of religious institutions. Never generalizing about the arguably ambivalent role afforded to black political movements by individual and collective religious institutions within the US, Savage nevertheless makes sure to highlight the neglected roles of intelligent black women in American religious history whose stories are lost when we acknowledge that they were not afforded the usual positions of authority occupied by black men as religious and political leaders. In addition, Savage paints a realistic and refreshing image of diverse thought within African American religion, illuminating not only the reality of diverse religious traditions but also diversity of opinion and theology within black Protestantism--attitudes about (the existence of) God, about non-Christians (namely, the forgotten black Christian fascination with Gandhi), about white religions, and about the efficacy of black pastors and churches in struggles for social equality.

As ultimately revealed in the final chapter, Savage's construction of a black pantheon of sorts for meaningful, critical intellectual thought about black religion in the US serves to provide the reader a better sense of how to locate modern black leaders in a larger historical debate about the relationship between religion, race, and politics with a focus on two such men, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
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