Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Religious Studies

Major Professor

Mozella G. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sandra A. Garcia, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James F. Strange, Ph.D.


African American, Faith, Theology, Prosperity, Preaching, Community


The trajectory of religious phenomena has been to give a reflective, yet

formative understanding of the ethos endemic to a culture. Pursuant to this

thought, the ethos of African American religion can rightfully be described as a

religious sociological construct, mired in a myriad of changes. These changes

have had a profound effect on how African Americans relate to their God, their

world, and themselves. The chief aim of this enterprise is to chronicle the

transformation of Black Religion in the United States, noting the social and

economic factors that served synergistically to formulate its current mission. I

conclude that the advancements made during the Civil Rights Era have served

as an impetus, within the past thirty years, that has resulted in a shift in the

mission of Black Religion. I contend that this shift is away from the traditional

communal appeal to a more individualistic appeal that substantiates middle-class

African American religious ideology. I further contend that the rise of the African

American middle-class religious ideology has contributed to the perpetual state of

the African American underclass as illustrated in Black Religion. In undertaking

this effort, I have drawn from an assortment of books and articles in addition to

church literature, audio sermons, and personal interviews.

In establishing a premise for this argument, this thesis will explore the

religious modus vivendi of early slaves. The Black Church was born out of the

need to combat the atrocities and vicissitudes that were directly and indirectly a

result of slavery. Slavery, therefore, provides a meaningful basis in which to

begin to understand the embryonic stage of the church. After examining the

formative years of Black Religion, I will then construct a cogent argument as to

how the Civil Rights Movement employed Black Religion as a tool to empower

the Black community, thus appealing to the community. I will then proceed to

compare how Black Religion was employed during the Civil Rights Era to how it

is employed presently. This comparison will provide the premise for my