CANAAN LAND: A Religious History of African Americans

Albert J. Raboteau, Author
Albert J. Raboteau, Author CANAAN LAND: A Religious History of African Americans Reviewed on: 04/09/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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Working from the premise that "the story of African-American religion has often been neglected in books and courses on [both] African-American history and American religious history," Princeton religion professor Raboteau (Slave Religion and A Fire in the Bones) offers this wonderfully informative and brief introduction to African-American religious traditions. The book opens memorably with a glimpse of a 15th-century slave raid off the western coast of Africa, with Raboteau powerfully demonstrating the devastation slavery wrought upon individuals and families. He then paints with broad strokes the sensibilities of many African religions, their syncretic blending with Christianity into new traditions such as Santería and Candomblê, and the conversion of many American slaves to Christianity (particularly the Methodist and Baptist sects). He sweeps through the independent black church movement of the 19th century, chronicling how the joy of emancipation dissipated into bleak despair as African-Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries struggled to achieve economic and social parity. Closing chapters discuss the Great Migration and the rise of new religious movements in the North, such as Father Divine's Peace Mission Movement and the Nation of Islam. Raboteau does not neglect the conversion of many African-Americans to age-old religious traditions (there are now two million black Catholics in the United States). This well-written, concise primer, sprinkled with primary sources, covers all of the highlights and deserves to become a staple of college syllabi. (Apr.)

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