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The Idea of Black Religion

Black religion is a familiar category in American history and culture. It has been a reliable category to describe practices, institutions, and experiences of people of African descent. For a little over a decade, Sylvester Johnson, Barbara Savage, Curtis Evans, and other scholars of religion have called attention to how black religion is more a proscriptive and ideological than descriptive idea in human history. Following these scholars of religion, this course suspends the familiarity of black religion in order to assess its meaning(s) and function(s) in American history. Moreover, this course examines how the meaning and function of black religion was formed and constituted in conjunction with ideals used to differentiate “modern” and “premodern” social groups, behaviors, and institutions. The idea of Black religion coalesced with contested ideas and norms such as civilization and the nation-state; freedom and the human; science and rationality; morality and crime; and health and medicine. In the end, this course will demonstrate how the idea of black religion is not only central to the making of racial and ethnic identities, it is also important to the making of modern America.


This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.

Jamil Drake

Florida State University

Public College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Graduate Course, Seminar
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies, American Studies, Other

Other Traditions
Religous Tradition

Class/Power, Politics/Law/Government, Pluralism/Secularism/Culture Wars, Race/Ethnicity

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