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African-American Humanism Paperback – August 1, 1991

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

YA-- A timely, scholarly collection that focuses on the important and often overlooked role humanism has played in shaping the lives of African Americans. In his introduction, Allen challenges readers to acknowledge the humanistic, nontheistic beliefs of blacks who have made history in addition to their more well-known religious beliefs. The book features 21 individuals, offering biographical essays, writings by black American and African humanists, and transcripted interviews conducted by the editor. Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. DuBois, and Norman Hill are among those included. Because the selections vary in degree of difficulty, with many requiring a strong background in philosophy, religion, and political and literary theory, the anthology is for sophisticated readers. The views presented often challenge or question established religious positions or practices. An important addition to collections on African-American culture and thought. --Virgil R. Davala, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA

Copyright 1991 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (August 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879756586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879756581
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,666,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on January 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
At the time this 1991 collection of writings was published, Norm R. Allen Jr. was "an editorial associate at Free Inquiry magazine and the executive director of African Americans for Humanism, a subcommittee of the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism (CODESH)."

He writes in the Introduction, "This collection has been compiled to highlight a grossly neglected side of black thought and history. Before the history of black people can be understood, the ENTIRE history must first be made known---including the history of black freethinkers."

Here are some quotations from the book:

"(W.E.B.) DuBois dissented from orthodox Marxism and the Communist party. He argued that Marxists fundamentally erred by assuming the interracial solidarity of the working class. The irrational prejudice of white workers prevented them from uniting with blacks to fulfill the universal promise of economic democracy." (Pg. 31)
"For instance, there were the Moors, who invaded Europe in 711 A.D. and were the dominant power there for the next 500 years. Writings and paintings of those times show them as jet black and wooly-haired. The Moors gave Europe one of its finest civilizations and rescued it from the Dark Ages." (Pg. 59)
(Frederick Douglass): "Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity... I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which everywhere surround me... The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus." (Pg. 110)
(Zora Neale Hurston) "So I do not pray. I accept the means at my disposal for working out my destiny.
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Format: Paperback
"As for me, I do not pretend to read God's mind. If He has a plan for the universe worked out to the smallest detail, it would be a folly of me to presume to revise it. That, to me, seems the highest form of sacrilege. So I do not pray. I accept the means at my disposal for working out my destiny. It seems to me that I have been given a mind and will-power for that very purpose. I do not expect God to single me out and grant me advantages over my fellow men. Prayer is for those who need it. Prayer seems to me a cry of weakness, and an attempt to avoid, by trickery, the rules of the game as laid down. I do not choose to admit weakness. I accept the challenge of responsibility. Life, as it is, does not frighten me, since I have made my peace with the universe as I find it, and bow to its laws." ~ Zora Neale Hurston

This text takes an awful great deal of consideration. I had a moment of pause as I was choosing which star rating to afford it. I am generous in my system. I have rarely ever chosen and read a "bad" book though there is one current read which will be be given no leniency for overwhelming grammatical error and dialogue suited only for caricature, but this book needs pause and reflection.

Even as I read back over some of my favorite passages, new insights arrive to me while studying the words of such brilliant humanist social critiques as Zora Neale Hurston's "On Religion" from her biography Dust Tracks on a Road or Langston Hughes' "Salvation" from The Big Sea. They display remarkable journeys not simply from the religious to irreligious, but a journey from seeking to enfold oneself in the shroud of faith to a full and emboldened to desire to know and engage with a wider sphere of humanity. Their own writing speaks to this artistic instinct.
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I became aware of this book after seeing the author years ago on a former daytime talk show -- "Rolanda." The discussion was about religion and up until the airing of this show, I was unaware of any African-American atheists. When mention was made of Mr. Allen's book, I wanted it. Up to this point, I have only scanned the book, with the intentions of reading it more thoroughly later. I originally expected the book to center more directly on Mr. Allen's research and view points rather than being an anthology. However, I still expect the book to be a good read and informational.
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