The Talking Book: African Americans and the Bible

Allen Dwight Callahan, Author Yale University Press $30 (286p) ISBN 978-0-300-10936-8
In this informative academic volume, Callahan (a New Testament professor at Brazil's Seminario Teologico Batista do Nordeste) examines how the music and literature of black Americans are shot through with biblical images. His opening chapter rehearses familiar history, explaining how white evangelicals introduced slaves to the Bible, and arguing that the Bible has given black Americans the resources to critique injustice. More innovatively, Callahan examines how black readers have engaged the Bible's ""toxic"" passages, like Genesis 9:25, which racists have read to say that dark skin is a curse. Callahan then turns to his central task: teasing out the various biblical themes that have been important to black writers and readers. He suggests that other scholars have focused too exclusively on the imagery of exodus in African-American culture. Of course, Callahan does find exodus in spirituals like ""God's A-Gwinter Trouble de Water."" But he also traces the theme of exile through the plays of August Wilson and the novels of James Baldwin, and he considers the central place of the name of Jesus in black folklore, belles lettres, and hip-hop. From W. E. B. Du Bois to Toni Morrison, black writers have invoked Jesus to signify ""the suffering of black people."" Callahan's investigations will doubtless interest students of African-American religion.
Reviewed on: 10/01/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
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