Religious Orders And Congregations In The Caribbean

reached out to their own communities and to regions in the USA perceived to be deficient in Christian enlightenment. Missionaries also founded new congregations in the Caribbean. Missions to Africa, however, took on a special symbolic significance by linking Christian providentialism with an emotional connection to black Americans' African ancestral heritage.26 Supporters of missions often referred to Africa as the 'dark continent', as did white missionaries and imperialists, but insisted that racial solidarity with Africans made black evangelists uniquely qualified to take the word there. As one publication put it: 'The Special Mission of the AME Church to the Darker Races is to "Teach the Mind to Think, the Heart to Love, the Hand to Work."' AME missionaries ventured to Liberia and, in the 1890s, to South Africa, where they acted as catalysts to the formation of the Ethiopian church movement.27 In planting the church there, an AME bishop explained in 1902 that black Africans 'have for long centuries become the victims of customs and habits not in keeping with the better life which is the result only of Christian civilization'. Inspired by a pan-African consciousness infused with the doctrine of racial uplift, black American missionaries created an internationalist evangelical Protestant network between the USA, Africa and the Caribbean by the late nineteenth century.28

By the early twentieth century, the centrality of black Christianity in African-American culture was widely known, and the black church became a subject of scholarly study. Carter G. Woodson's magisterial The history of the negro church, published in 1921, was a landmark work of scholarship that remains influential. But it was in The souls of black folk of 1903, perhaps the most important book ever published about black America, that W E. B. DuBois expressed a more prophetic vision of religion in the redemption of African Americans. The black church, he wrote, 'is the social center of Negro life in the United States, and the most characteristic expression of African character . . . The church often stands as a real conserver of morals, a strengthener of family life, and the final authority on what is Good and Right. Thus one can see in the Negro church today, reproduced in microcosm, all that great world from which the Negro is cut off by color-prejudice and social condition.' DuBois lamented a persistent 'deep religious fatalism' that he said was a legacy of slavery. But he predicted a renewal of the 'deep religious feeling of the real Negro heart' that

26 For a fuller exposition of this theme see chapter 35, pp. 583-4.

27 See chapter 35 below, pp. 576-92.

28 Becker, 'The black church'; Campbell, Songs of Zion; Martin, Black Baptists and African missions; Drake, The redemption of Africa and black religion; Moses, The golden age of black nationalism.

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