Beginnings of African American religion

Beginnings of African American religion
The overall meaning of this chapter discusses the early formations of the African
American religious landscape. The author emphasizes that Africans reshaped religious traditions
to meet their needs. What resulted was a concoction of traditional African beliefs and the
manipulated religious ideals taught to them by their oppressors.
This chapter also discusses the constant surveillance slaves were under once whites realized
religion may give slaves some kind of power (spiritual or not). The author sees this as important
because whites used Christianity to make African slaves more complacent and manipulated
scriptures that supported slavery to instill fear. Whites wanted to make sure that slaves would
stay inside the boundaries or question this “peculiar institution”. This shows that white plantation
owners used religion yet another tool to remind slaves that they will never be free on earth or in
Despite of the constant surveillance, slaves used various techniques and learned that they could
outsmart the white man during supervised services. For example, slaves would hold secret
meetings in the deep woods, call and response or a ring shout. These kinds of techniques allowed
slaves to secretly communicate with one another and still worship God, while singing songs of
freedom on earth. The author sees this as important because this was the beginning of Africans
embracing Christianity. However, they began to modify parts of the religious practices to meet
their needs. Although Africans were not allowed to worship multiple gods, they were able this
worship by disguising their prayers to the “saints.” African slaves were able to identify
commonalities among their own religious beliefs with the whites, however in the eyes of whites
they would never be free nor equal.
Ultimately religion is used to give us a meaning of life. Even in times when white plantation
owners tried to enslave their spirit, they were unsuccessful. Throughout history it shows that
African slaves and now African Americans continue to “push against the boundaries and
limitations of their social existence in a country that considers (in my opinion still considers)
them inferior.”

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