Deep Calls unto Deep: African American Christian Consciousness Pt. 1

Part of the Black Religion / Womanist Thought / Social Justice book series (BRWT)


In an attempt to articulate what I consider to be the salient features of African American Christian consciousness I will make extensive use of The Souls of Black Folk and “The Religion of the American Negro,” both authored by Du Bois, and will also draw upon Friedrich Nietzsche’s vision of the tragic, first articulated in his classic study The Birth of Tragedy, then further developed and fleshed out during the course of his lifetime.1 It is my opinion that Du Bois’s Souls is to date the classic work on identifying the distinctive elements and spirit of the African American religious (Christian) experience. Unlike many of his successors, Du Bois did not conflate the normative task of the theologian and the descriptive moment of analysis. He had no theological ax to grind and no latent or manifest theological agenda, just a profound appreciation of the depth and power of the experience itself.


Christian Faith Black Folk African American Experience Ultimate Justice Aesthetic Form 
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  1. 1.
    Rose Pfeffer, Nietzsche: Disciple of Dionysus (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1972). I am in complete agreement with Rose Pfeffer when she writes, “Nietzsche’s philosophy is based on the conviction that the greatness of man and the development of culture can be realized only within a spirit that he calls tragic. I contend that it is the central aim and purpose of his philosophical writings to clarify the meaning of the “tragic disposition” and to help initiate t he coming of a tragic age , which he sees as t he only hope for the future of mankind.” (29)Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Lawrence Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Thought from Slavery to Freedom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 39.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: NAL Penguin, 1982), 212.Google Scholar
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    Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy and the Case of Wagner, trans. Walter Kaufman (New York: Random House, 1967), 60.Google Scholar
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    See, for instance, Edgar S. Brightman in A Philosophy of Religion (New York: Prentice Hall, 1940), 246.Google Scholar
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    Edith Hamilton, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes (Boston, MA: New American Library, 1942), 104.Google Scholar
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    M. S. Silk and J. P. Stern, Nietzsche on Tragedy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
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    M. S. Silk and J. P. Stern, Nietzsche on Tragedy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981).Google Scholar
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    Ronald Hayman, Nietzsche: A Critical Life (England: Penguin Books, 1982), 1–2.Google Scholar
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    See Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971).Google Scholar
  11. Ian Barbour, Myths, Models and Paradigms (New York: Harper & Row, 1974).Google Scholar
  12. 27.
    Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whitenessand the Literary Imagination (New York: Vintage Books, 1993).Google Scholar

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© Matthew V. Johnson 2010

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