A FIRE IN THE BONES

REFLECTIONS ON AFRICAN-AMERICAN RELIGIOUS HISTORY

A well-researched look at black Americans and religion, dispelling the notion that the slaves accepted their masters' beliefs without question. Raboteau (Religion/Princeton Univ.; Slave Religion, 1978) traces African-Americans' development of their own religious and moral values as they founded churches and institutions through which they could exercise these values. Part I offers a thorough, but by no means boring, history of how Christianity was presented to and propagated among the slaves. At the same time, the author shows slaveholders grappling with the conflict between their own Christian imperatives and the economic necessity of slavery. The author convincingly argues that black people's social and political lives were inextricably bound to their religious life until well into the 20th century. As resolution to their conflict with white Christianity, slaves began in the late 18th century to form their own separate churches, ultimately breaking away from the white denominations they had first known. ``These black churches not only formed the institutional core for the development of free black communities,'' states Raboteau, ``they also gave black Christians the opportunity to articulate their own vision of Christianity, standing in eloquent testimony to the existence of two Christian Americas.'' He identifies the changes prompted by the 20th-century migration to the North, which exposed blacks to religious doctrines other than the Baptist, Methodist, and Episcopal churches, and by shifts in social, economic, and political conditions that began with the civil rights movement in the mid-1950s, which ushered in black liberation theology and new challenges to American Christians, black and white. Raboteau cogently delineates a complex set of interrelated issues and gives evenhanded treatment to all sides in each religious debate. Comprehensive, clearly organized, and low-keyjust the kind of thoughtful, undogmatic approach this material needs.

Pub Date: July 7, 1995

ISBN: 0-8070-0932-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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