African American Religions

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Medium:
Syllabus
Course Level:
300
Course Length:
Semester
Credits:
4
Tags:

Course Description: 

This course examines the religious beliefs and practices of North-Americans of African descent from the eighteenth century to the twenty-first century.  Africans, African Americans, and Afro-Indians have practices a wide variety of religions and affiliated with a wide range of religious traditions, including Christianity (Congregational, Baptist, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, and Moravian), Judaism, Islam, and others.  Many scholars have noted that black churches have historically been the most important institution in African American communities. In this class, we will read religious material written by people of African descent (including Jarena Lee, Lemuel Haynes, Martin Luther King Jr., and others).  We will also read works by scholars who have studied African American religions.  This class has been designed as a writing-intensive course in order to encourage your ability as a scholarly writer.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this course, students should demonstrate an thorough knowledge of African American religious history, in general, and the following, in particular: 1) the different rituals and beliefs of religious traditions practiced by people of African descent; 2) the historical factors that led to the development of specifically African American religious traditions; and 3) the ways that religion relates to broader themes in African American history.

Learning to write well is a lifelong process, and this course is designed to be one of several classes where you can focus more intensely on improving your ability as a wrier.  As such, at the end of this course, students should demonstrate an increased capacity to: 1) apply sophisticated critical, analytic, and evaluative thinking in both their reading and writing; 2) locate, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and employ scholarly and historical sources relevant to whatever writing task they have at-hand; 3) construct sound questions and hypotheses in the form of an argument/thesis that are appropriate to the genres of history and/or religious studies; and 4) proofread and edit carefully and effectively through a deliberate process of drafting and revision. 

Course Requirements:

Required Books:

 

Anne H. Pinn and Anthony B. Pinn.  Fortress Introduction to Black Church History. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.  

Albert J. Raboteau.  A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History.  Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. 

Martin Luther King Jr.  Strength to Love.  Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981. 

Cedrick May.  Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic, 1760-1835.  Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2008. 

 

Other Reading will be Posted, including:

 “’Releese us out of this Cruell Bondegg’ - An Appeal from Virginia in 1723” in The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Oct., 1994).

Lemuel Haynes, “Universal Salvation” in Early Negro Writing, 1760-1837, edited by Dorothy Porter (Black Classic Press, 1995), pg 448-454.

John Stewart, “An Address to the Wyandott Nation and Accompanying Letter to William Walker” in Early Negro Writing, 1760-1837, edited by Dorothy Porter (Black Classic Press, 1995), pg 455-459.

Jarena Lee, “Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee” in Early Negro Writing, 1760-1837, edited by Dorothy Porter (Black Classic Press, 1995), pg 494-514.

Rabbi Matthew, “Black Judaism in Harlem” in African American Religious History: A Documentary Witness, 2ndEdition, Milton C. Sernett, editor.

John Sensbach, ““Don’t Teach My Negroes to be Pietists” Pietism and the Roots of the Black Protestant Church” in Pietism in Germany and North America 1680-1820 by Jonathan Strom, Hartmut Lehmann, James Van Horn Melton

Writing Assignments (see assignment sheets for more details):

1) A five page essay where you will compare and contrast some of the forms of Christianity adopted by Africans in America in the eighteenth century and made an argument about why these religious traditions were appealing to some African slaves. 

2)  A five page essay where you will do a close reading of a religious text and analyze it context, meaning, and significance to African American religious history

3) A twelve to fourteen page paper based on original primary and secondary source research about a religious organization in our area and its connection to the history of African American religions.

 Grading:

 Types of Assignments                                                             Percentage of Final Grade

  1. Weekly in-class writing responses and activities                                10%
  2. Research Paper; 12 to 14 pages in length                                            30%
  3. Two small papers (20% each); 5 pages each                                      40%
  4. Peer Reviews of papers                                                                            10%
  5. Class Participation and Attendance                                                        10%

 

  • All major writing assignments (listed above under Writing Assignments) must be completed in order to pass this course; if one of these assignments is not completed and turned-in, then the course grade will be an automatic F.  If you receive a grade a D+ or lower on two or more major assignments, then you will not pass the course.
  • Because of the importance of the revision process, failure to turn in required drafts will constitute a failure to complete the assignment – no matter how excellent the submitted paper may be.
  • Grades will be reduced by 5% for every day that an assignment is late.  Assignments more than four weekdays late will not be accepted.

 

University-Wide Policies:

Academic Integrity:

This course is designed to teach you to write and research responsibly and ethically.  To learn strategies for researching, compiling, and presenting your arguments, you must complete all stages of the work yourself: taking the words of others, or presenting the ideas of others as your own, not only prohibits you from learning the skills of academic research, it also is a violation of the University's Code of Academic Integrity.  The University defines academic dishonesty as "cheating of any kind, including misrepresenting one's own work, taking credit for the work of others without crediting them and without appropriate authorization, and the fabrication of information."  The minimum penalty for such offenses, whether on rough or final drafts, is to fail the assignment; the more common penalty is to fail the course.  We will devote class time to discussing methods of citation and appropriate circumstances for citing.  However, if you ever have any questions regarding issues of citation specifically or academic integrity in general, please see me.

Special Circumstances:

If you feel you may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability you should contact me privately to discuss specific needs. 

UniversityCounseling Center:

The UCC sponsors free workshops on numerous topics (time management, organization, preventing procrastination, stress control, test taking, & academic planning).  

 

Class-Specific Policies:

 Attendance:

  • Attendance is essential for learning and for success in this class.  Class attendance is required, with limited excused absences; class participation is essential to performance and affects the final grade.  More than 2 unexcused absences from class meetings will adversely affect your participation and attendance grade.  You will lose five percent of your participation and attendance grade for every additional unexcused absence.  Any excused absences must be documented (i.e. Doctor’s note, Dean’s permission, etc).
  • If you have an excused absence, it is your responsibility to make up missed in-class work, including peer reviews or in-class writings.  Contact me about how to make-up the work.  If you do not complete the in-class work, you will receive zero points for it even if the absence is excused.
  • Always bring assigned text and written assignments to class.
  • If there is something that will affect attendance on a regular basis, please see me immediately.  You are expected to attend all classes unless you have discussed a conflict with me in advance.

 Professional Behavior:

  • I expect you to be courteous to others at all times.  Disrespectful behavior toward anyone in the classroom will not be tolerated. 
  • Since we are a community of scholars, each person’s ideas, opinions, and written work contain equal validity and must be treated with equal respect.
  • Please show up promptly and remain attentive until I dismiss the class.  Out of respect for fellow students, please arrive before class is scheduled to begin.  If tardiness becomes routine, 2% of your participation grade will be deducted for every time you are tardy.
  • Do not speak at inappropriate times or engage in disruptive behavior.
  • Please do not use a laptop computer, BlackBerry, iPod, cellular phone, or similar devises during class.  Such devices tend to distract from class discussions.  On the rare occasions when you may need to look at something on your computer, I will inform you that it is okay to bring and use laptop computers.  
  • Turn your cellular phones and other electronic devices off before class begins.
  • Please do not eat during class, but you are welcome to bring something to drink.  Do not bring drinks to computer labs or special library sessions.

 Submitting Work:

  • All papers and written assignments must be submitted both electronically through Blackboard and in a paper copy to me. 
  • All written work must use double-spaced, typed, 12-point Times New Roman font. Please use standard 1” margins on all sides.  Follow all standard convention for writing, as discussed in class.
  • Whenever written work includes ideas or quotations that are not your own, proper citation (footnotes and work cited page) must be included.  Please use Chicago Manual of Style formatting.

 Peer Reviews:

  • Peer reviews serve important pedagogical goals and are central to this writing course. 
  • Your peers will review major writing assignment in this class.  Critically constructive comments about content, style, and form will assist everyone in improve their writing. 
  • Peer reviewing someone else’s work also helps you to ask critical questions of your writing. 
  • Everyone must follow the peer review instructions carefully and provide, in good faith, the highest quality reviews possible.

 Office Hours:

  • As I indicated above, I will always be available on [insert days and times] and by appointment.  I encourage students to visit during office hours with any questions about assignments, writing skills, readings, or discussions. My door is open to discuss problem or questions and I am willing to share strategies for academic improvement.  I am willing to read drafts of your papers during office hours.
  • Students wishing to meet with me who cannot attend regular office hours should e-mail me.  I will endeavor to always respond to e-mails with a 24 hour period, but I respond less frequently Fridays through Sundays.

 Course Workflow and Calendar:

 

Week 1 -          

Monday:

Introduction to class and discussion of syllabus

Wednesday:

Reading due: John Pobee, “Aspects of African Traditional Religion,” Sociological Analysis, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Spring, 1976), pp. 1-18.

Week 2 -

Monday: No Class

Wednesday

Reading due: “’Releese us out of this Cruell Bondegg’ - An Appeal from Virginia in 1723” (Blackboard) and  Preface and Introduction in Fortress Introduction to Black Church History (pg vii to 19)

Week 3 -

Monday:

Reading due:  Introduction in Cedrick May’s Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic  and John Sensbach, ““Don’t Teach My Negroes to be Pietists” Pietism and the Roots of the Black Protestant Church” in Pietism in Germany and North America 1680-1820 by Jonathan Strom, Hartmut Lehmann, James Van Horn Melton

Wednesday

Reading due: Jupiter Hammon chapter in Cedrick May’s Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic

Week 4 -

Monday:

Reading due: Phillis Wheatley chapter in Cedrick May’s Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic

First Draft of Paper 1 Due

Wednesday

Reading due: Lemuel Haynes, “Universal Salvation” and John Stewart, “An Address to the Wyandott Nation and Accompanying Letter to William Walker” in Early Negro Writing, 1760-1837, edited by Dorothy Porter (Black Classic Press, 1995), pg 448-459.

Week 5 -

Monday:

Reading due: John Marrant chapter in Cedrick May’s Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic  and “African-Americans, Exodus, and the American Israel” in A Fire in the Bones: Reflection on African-American Religious History by Albert Raboteau

Wednesday

Reading due: Richard Allen chapter in Cedrick May’s Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic  and “Richard Allen and the African Church Movement” in A Fire in the Bones: Reflection on African-American Religious History by Albert Raboteau

Week 6 -

Monday:

Reading due: Chapter 1 – “African American Methodist Churches” in the Fortress Introduction to Black Church History (pg 23 to 62)and Jarena Lee, “Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee” in Early Negro Writing, 1760-1837, edited by Dorothy Porter (Black Classic Press, 1995), pg 494-514.

Final Draft of Paper 1 Due

Wednesday

Reading due: Chapter 2 – “African American Baptist Churches” in the Fortress Introduction to Black Church History (pg 63 to 101) and Maria Stewart chapter in Cedrick May’s Evangelism and Resistance in the Black Atlantic

Week 7 -

Monday: No Class

Wednesday

Reading due:  “”Ethiopia Shall Soon Stretch Forth Her Hands”: Black Destiny in Nineteenth-Century America” in A Fire in the Bones: Reflection on African-American Religious History by Albert Raboteau

Week 8 -

Monday:

Reading due: “The Chanted Sermon” in A Fire in the Bones: Reflection on African-American Religious History by Albert Raboteau And “The Conversion Experience” in A Fire in the Bones: Reflection on African-American Religious History by Albert Raboteau

Wednesday

First Draft of 2nd paper due – Peer review in Class

Week 9 -

Monday:

Reading due: “Minority within a Minority: The History of Black Catholics in America” in A Fire in the Bones: Reflection on African-American Religious History by Albert Raboteau

Wednesday

Reading due: Chapter 3 – “African American Pentecostalism” in the Fortress Introduction to Black Church History (pg 102 to 122)

Final version of 2nd paper due

Week 10 -

No Class - Break

Week 11 -

Monday:

Reading due:  “”How Far the Promised Land?” Black Religion and Black Protest” in A Fire in the Bones: Reflection on African-American Religious History by Albert Raboteau

Wednesday

Reading due: Chapter 4 – “Liberation Thought and the Black Church” and “Documentary Appendix” in the Fortress Introduction to Black Church History (pg 125 to 161)

Week 12 -

Monday:

Reading due: “The Black Church: Continuity within Change” in A Fire in the Bones: Reflection on African-American Religious History by Albert Raboteau

Wednesday

Reading due: “A Hidden Wholeness: Thomas Merton and Martin Luther King Jr.” in A Fire in the Bones: Reflection on African-American Religious History by Albert Raboteau and Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, pages 7-29 and 39-68

Week 13 -

Monday:

Reading due: Martin Luther King Jr., Strength to Love, pages 87-114 and 137-154

Wednesday

First Draft of Research Paper due – Group Peer review in class

Week 14 -

Monday:

Reading due: Rabbi Matthew, “Black Judaism in Harlem” in African American Religious History: A Documentary Witness, 2ndEdition, Milton C. Sernett, editor.

Wednesday

Reading due: Malcolm X, speeches and documents: “Black Man’s History – December 1962” < http://www.malcolm-x.org/speeches/spc_12__62.htm>; “Letter from Mecca – April, 1964” <http://www.malcolm-x.org/docs/let_mecca.htm>; and “After the Bombing / Speech at Ford Auditorium – February 14, 1965” < http://www.malcolm-x.org/speeches/spc_021465.htm>.

Week 15 -

Monday:

Reading due: James H. Cone, “Black Theology and the Black Church: Where Do We Go from Here” and Lawrence N. Jones, “The Black Churches: A New Agenda,” in African American Religious History: A Documentary Witness, 2ndEdition, Milton C. Sernett, editor, pages 567-588.

Wednesday

Second Draft of Research Paper due –peer reviews of research paper in class

Final Version of Research Paper Due

  

Essay Assignment Sheets:

Essay 1

Purpose and Goals:   This assignment is designed to encourage your ability to summarize, interpret, and analyze information. The assignment requires you to summarize information from course readings in a clear, comprehensible, and organized manner.        

Instructions:   In the eighteenth century, Africans in British colonies began to make Christianity their own.  In a well argued five-page essay, compare and contrast some of the forms of Christianity adopted by Africans in America in the eighteenth century and made an argument about why these religious traditions were appealing to some African slaves. 

Essay format: The finished essay should be five pages in length, double spaced, 12 point, Times New Roman font.  It must follow all the standard conventions for writing and formatting as discussed in class.  The essay should be based upon course readings; no research is necessary for this paper.  Use footnotes and a bibliography to cite all sources of information, even when no direct quotation is used.  The first version will be reviewed by your class instructor before you revise and submit a final version. 

Essay 2

Purpose and Goals:   This assignment is designed to encourage your ability to do analytical, close readings of a primary source text. The assignment requires you to communicate to readers the context, meaning, and significance of a historical religious text.        

Instructions: Select a religious text from the provided list.  You will need to read this text closely and analyze it context, meaning, and significance to African American religious history.  What does this text tell you about the author and the religious tradition they practiced?  What religious messages did the author intend to convey to readers?  What were some of the unwritten assumptions held by the author of this text?  What does this text tell us about African American religious history more generally?  Your essay needs to have a clear thesis argued throughout the essay. 

Essay format: The finished essay should be five pages in length, double spaced, 12 point, Times New Roman font.  It must follow all the standard conventions for writing and formatting as discussed in class.  Use course readings and one other source to help analyze and understand the text.  Use footnotes and a bibliography to cite all sources of information, even when no direct quotation is used.  The first version of this essay will be reviewed by one of your classmates before you revise and submit a final version. 

Research Paper:

Purpose and Goals: This assignment is designed to facilitate primary and secondary research using printed and online sources.  It will assess your ability to form a scholarly argument supported by evidence.     

Instructions:  In this assignment, you will seek to place one specific religious organization in the Washington DC area within the context of African American religion history.  You must pick a religious organization (church, temple, mosque, or society) that is broadly or generally considered an African American organization.  You will research the particular history of that organization and you will research the religious tradition from which it immerged.  For example, someone could pick Ashbury United Methodist Church as their religious organization.  The student would research this church’s current practices, beliefs, and history, but they would also research Foundry Methodist Church and American Methodism in general because the black congregants of Ashbury left the predominantly white Foundry Methodist Church in 1836 to found a separate black church. 

Some questions that you may want to answer in the project include the following:  What are the central beliefs of this organization?  What are the most important rituals practiced in this religious organization?  How does this religious organization reflect it historical context?  Etc.

Research should be done with the following sources: published local and national histories, websites (specially the organization’s own website and related organizational websites), published articles, historic material, and other publications.  Be careful to not take what a source says at face value.  All sources must be critically evaluated in order to determine its reliability and relevance.  It is highly recommended that you attend a meeting or service at the religious organization. 

Your essay needs to have a clear thesis argued throughout the essay that is supported with primary and secondary source evidence.  This assignment will require several drafts and will be peer reviewed twice (once in a group setting and once in a one-on-one setting).  Your choice of a religious organization must be approved before your start research. 

Essay format: The finished essay should be 12 to 14 pages in length.  It must follow all the standard conventions for writing and formatting, as discussed in class.  The essay must be based upon a variety of primary and secondary sources from print and online sources.  Use footnotes and a bibliography to cite all sources of information, even when no direct quotation is used.