The Historical Contours of African American Humanist Principles: Part One

  • Anthony B. Pinn
Part of the Black Religion/Womanist Thought/Social Justice book series (BRWT)


While many argue that the United States of America is founded upon overtly religious ideals and desires, a legacy of theological and religious contradiction, combined with frustrated movements toward democracy in the face of modernity, made the United States ripe for humanist’ s possibilities. From the Pilgrims onward the common nation-story revolved around religious freedom and the creation of a “new promised land.” There may be some truth to this, but it is the case that less than thirty percent of the colonists who populated this land in its early years were actively involved in organized religion. The land fostered individualism and frontier life, and this made it difficult to provide sufficient missionaries to spread the gospel.“Spiritual” concerns, when present, took a back seat to economic challenges fostered by an unfamiliar and unforgiving terrain.


  1. 2.
    Corliss Lamont, The Philosophy of Humanism (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing, Co., 1965), 17–18.Google Scholar
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    See Henry F. May, The Enlightenment in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976).Google Scholar
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    John H. Dietrich, “Unitarianism and Humanism,” in What If The World Went Humanist?: Ten Sermons, selected by Mason Olds (Yellow Springs, OH: Fellowship of Religious Humanists, 1989), 58.Google Scholar
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    Daniel Alexander Payne, “Daniel Payne’s Protestation of Slavery,” Lutheran Herald and Journal of the Franckean Synod (August 1, 1839): 114–115.Google Scholar
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    Arthur Fauset, Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1944), 7.Google Scholar
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    Roy D. Morrison, II, “The Emergence of Black Theology in America,” The A.M.E. Zion Quarterly Review, Volume XCIV, No. 3 (October 1982): 6.Google Scholar
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    J. Saunders Redding, edited with an Introduction by Faith Berry, A Scholar’s Conscience: Selected Writings of J. Saunders Redding, 1942–1977 (Louisville: The University Press of Kentucky, 1992).Google Scholar

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© Anthony B. Pinn 2004

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  • Anthony B. Pinn

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