Where Are the Studies of Twentieth-Century Black Evangelicalism?

Where Are the Studies of Twentieth-Century Black Evangelicalism? January 16, 2013

I am working on some revisions to an article on evangelicals and political engagement in the twentieth century.  If all goes well, the essay will find its way into a collection of essays stemming from a series of Catholic-Evangelical dialogues that have taken place over the last several years at Georgetown University.  One of the readers of an earlier draft of my manuscript noted that my story of twentieth-century evangelicalism was too “Anglo” and “white.”  It was a good point.  Much of the historiography of evangelicalism in the past century has focused on white actors.  I thus set out to do some reading so that I could strengthen the essay along these lines.

In the process I made another discovery.  While there are a lot of good books written about African-American religion and political engagement in the twentieth century, almost all of them focus on Black Protestants of the liberal or mainline stripe.  Where are the black evangelicals?  What were they doing during the New Deal, World War II, the Cold War, and the Civil Rights Movement?  How did Black evangelical congregations and denominations respond to Protestant fundamentalism, the rise of neo-evangelicalism, and the emergence of the Christian Right?  What do we know, for example, about the history of the National Black Evangelical Association (organized in 1963)?

I write as a novice on this subject.  Perhaps I am not framing my questions properly.  Some have suggested that black churches did not identify with the word “evangelicalism.”  Perhaps there are some good books out there that I do not know about.  But a quick survey of American religious historians who I connect with on Facebook, Twitter, and at The Way of Improvement Leads Home, turned up very little.  If you can help I would love to hear from you.  In the meantime, here are some of the suggestions I have received thus far.  Unfortunately none of them are are exclusively devoted to African American evangelicalism.

Tameyln Tucker-Worgs, The Black Megachurch: Theology, Gender, and the Politics of Public Engagement

Thabiti Anyabwile, The Decline of African American Theology

Anne and Anthony Pinn, Fortress Into to Black Church History

Anthony Pinn, The Black Church in the Post-Civil Rights Era

Mark Noll, God and Race in American Politics

Paul Harvey, Through the Storm, Through the Night: A History of African American Christianity.


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  • Miles Mullin

    Hey John,
    You definitely need to add A.G. Miller (at Oberlin) to your list. He’s done work (i.e. published essays) on African American Fundamentalism, Evangelicalism, and Pentecostalism: https://new.oberlin.edu/arts-and-sciences/departments/religion/faculty_detail.dot?id=21017. I’d also recommend Alexander’s IVP book on Black Pentecostalism, Dickerson on The Careys of Chicago, some of the chapters in Taylor’s Black Religious Intellectuals as well as Wallace Best’s Passionately Human, No Less Divine, and a few chapters (e.g. “conversionist” AA religion) in Bauer and Singer’s work on Twentieth Century African American Religion.

    Some AA were very comfortable with the label “evangelical” even as late as the 1960s. The NBEA began as the NN(egro)EA when it was determined that (no shock here) the NEA not addressing the issues of specific import to its African Americans members. Sometime in the early 1970s, it went through its own split over the issue of whether or not “evangelicals” could embrace the theology of James Cone. If memory serves me, a young Tony Evans was involved in that argument.