African-American Church

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There is great difficulty in defining the field of Cultural Studies, as it takes an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach to studying the art, beliefs, politics, and institutions of ethnic cultures and pop culture. For the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham, one of the central goals of Cultural Studies was “to enable people to understand what (was) going on, and especially to provide ways of thinking, strategies for survival, and resources for resistance (Grossberg 2). Cultural Studies draws from whatever fields are necessary to produce the knowledge required for a particular project (Grossberg 2). It is a field that has no one unique narrative. Taking that into account, for the purposes of this essay I will examine one of many narratives Cultural Studies derives from – that of the African-American tradition. Even in focusing on it’s derivation from the African-American tradition, this will be but one path, not intended to serve as the sole trajectory within the African-American tradition of Cultural Studies. The Black Church

The African-American tradition begins with the black church. In the African-American community the black church has always been more than a religious institution. From the establishment of the first black church in America, throughout slavery and beyond, the church has been the foundation of the black community. During the horrific days of slavery it provided relief and nourishment for the soul with its promise of a better life after death. The church permitted self-expression and supported individuality as well as creativity, behavior that could have eventually lead to death. An example is found in the spirituals, gospel and other forms of music that helped blacks explain and endure their sojourn in America. The black church gave slaves a sense of dignity and lead them to believe they too were equal in the sight of God. The black church occupies such an important role in the black community because throughout American history churches were among the few institutions controlled by blacks. Participation in a religious club and related activities historically offered opportunities for social interaction and social status that were not available in the white-dominated society. Because the church was one of few institutions that African-Americans controlled, it served as the primary forum for addressing their educational, social, political, and religious needs (Lincoln 8). Black Institutions of Higher Education

The black church’s role in educating its parishioners diminished during the Reconstruction Era after the Civil War. Prior to the Civil War, there was no structured education system for black students in white-dominated society. Prior to the Civil War, there was no such notion of a black student, for blacks were slaves -the property of whites. Thus public policy prohibited the education of slaves in various parts of the nation, particularly the South. The Reconstruction-Era after the Civil War enabled blacks to obtain an education, although whites, when not directly thwarting African-American educational progress, sought to determine the nature and purpose of schooling for Blacks. As a response, many African Americans resolved to take control of and re-orient their education to fit their specific needs and use it to achieve racial uplift. Thus, the freedmen and freedwomen, along with their allies and supporters from various sectors, particularly the North, established Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that would enable them to defend and extend their hard fought freedoms despite their subordinate status. In many cases, federal monetary aid facilitated the development of HBCUs as separate colleges for African-Americans, because white America would not tolerate segregation of its colleges and universities (Anderson 2). Various white educational theorists and philanthropists attempted to derail the purpose of education as...
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