Black Power/Black Faith: Rethinking the “De-Christianization” of the Black Freedom Struggle
The Black Manifesto is one of the most curious documents produced in the late 1960s. Addressed to white Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, it demands ecclesiastical reparations for profiting from the oppression of Black peoples. It is simultaneously a critique of Christianity and part of the movement toward Black liberation theology, embodying points of antagonism and synergy among secular, religious, and anti-religious activists. Thus it provides an ideal opportunity to consider relationships between religion and the Black Power movement. This chapter argues that a religious/secular divide has been inaccurately invoked in studies of Black Power. It rejects claims that Black radical movements became “de-Christianized” in the late 1960s, and insists that a religious/secular bridge was always present in successive waves of the Black freedom movement. Indeed, despite a strong anti-clericalism, and pointed critiques of mainstream religious institutions, new renderings of Black faith were among the most enduring legacies of the Black Power movement.