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

Paul Harvey

It's a slow news week at the blog -- no Rapture, no David Barton sightings, politics as usual in Washington, the religious left arguing about Jim Wallis, etc. -- and some of you know what that means. Yes, it's time for the time-honored self-promotional post here at RiAH.

Later this summer, August I hope but by September for sure, my new book Through the Storm, Through the Night: A History of African American Christianity, will be out with Rowman & Littlefield. It's part of the "African American History" series put out by Rowman & Littlefield. And it's out just in time for your fall course text assignment!

I'm proud to have it standing there with very recent books by some tremendous historians in the same series, including Chris Waldrep's African Americans Confront Lynching: Strategies of Resistance From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Era, my old friend Burton Peretti's Lift Every Voice: The History of African American Music, and Edward Countryman's forthcoming Enjoy the Same Liberty: African Americans and the Revolutionary Era.

I'm also posting this now because some of you -- and you know who you are! -- are (if you're like me) now facing up to the fact that you've put off your fall book selections (which were due a month or two ago, remember that) long enough, and it's time to pick your texts for the fall. And for a select number of you, maybe this one will be right for you.

The text is short, about 140 pp., and written with the "general reader" and undergraduate reader in mind. I start with the diversity of religious expressions in West and Central Africa in the 14th/15th century, and end with Mama Lola and Kanye West, if that is a far enough chronological reach for you. And trust me, when drafts of this book failed to meet the aim of reaching the general audience and undergraduate reader, the tireless editors for this series, Jacqueline Moore and Nina Mkjagkij, were ever-ready with fierce and sometimes sarcastic pencils, rumbling through my prose like Sherman rumbled through Georgia, leaving a lot of detritus lying around but cleaning up the landscape considerably. Only, unlike Sherman, they rumbled through my landscape four times, Sherman as you recall having only moved through once. Kidding aside, it was a great experience to have a manuscript put through its paces so many times. I'm sure my other books would have been better with a similar full frontal attack on flabby prose.

In addition, the book comes with a "documents" section, about 60 pages, ranging from Virginia laws on baptism and freedom from the 1660s, to an account of the Stono Rebellion in 1739, to Daniel Payne's famous tour attempting to stamp out "ring shouts" in the 1870s, to Mahalia Jackson's reminiscences of growing up in New Orleans, to John Lewis reflecting on the meaning of non-violence, to Vincent Harding's great essay on the white Christ and Black Power, to Kanye West's "Jesus Walks." There is also a bibliographic essay, broken up by chapter, a Glossary, a Chronology section, and a timeline and some brief footnotes (brief enough not to scare off any freshman reader).

If any of ya'll want to preview it for possible purchase or course use, I'd by happy to send pdfs of the page proofs, or a sample chapter or something if you just want to briefly survey. Just email me, and I'll be there.

Table of contents and more info. below. And now after this brief commercial interruption, back to our usual programming. We'll have some blog posts up soon reflecting on the good times coming up at the Religion and American Culture Conference in Indianapolis starting tomorrow evening; I look forward to many great conversations there! Also, my co-blogmeisters Kelly Baker and the ubiquitous Randall Stephens have books coming out very soon, so we'll have some posts up about those soon.

And we won't even mention yet Phillip Luke Sinitiere's work on Joel Osteen, due up next year with NYU Press, and Linford Fisher's astonishing feat of research and analysis, The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of New England Indian Cultures in Early America, out I believe next year with Oxford Univ. Press, and sure to shape the study of colonial American religious encounters for the next generation to come. Of course, all these works will be featured here at RiAH in days and months to come.

But, enough about you, let's talk about me -- more on my book below.

Book description (from book website):

Paul Harvey illustrates how black Christian traditions provided theological, institutional, and personal strategies for cultural survival during bondage and into an era of partial freedom. At the same time, he covers the ongoing tug-of-war between themes of "respectability" versus practices derived from an African heritage; the adoption of Christianity by the majority; and the critique of the adoption of the "white man's religion" from the eighteenth century to the present. The book also covers internal cultural, gendered, and class divisions in churches that attracted congregants of widely disparate educational levels, incomes, and worship styles.

Through the Storm, Through the Night provides a lively overview to the history of African American religion, beginning with the birth of African Christianity amidst the Transatlantic slave trade, and tracing the story through its growth in America. Paul Harvey successfully uses the history of African American religion to portray the complexity and humanity of the African American experience.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction: Themes in African American Religious History
  • Middle Passage for the Gods: African and African American Religions from the Middle Passage to the Great Awakening
  • The Birth of Afro-Christianity in the Slave Quarters and the Urban North, 1740-1831
  • Through the Night: African Amerian Religion in the Antebellum Era
  • Day of Jubilee: Black Churches from Emancipation to the Era of Jim Crow
  • Jesus on the Mainline: Black Christianity from the Great Migration through World War II
  • Freedom's Main Line: Black Christianity, Civil Rights, and Religious Pluralism
  • Epilogue: Righteous Anger and Visionary Dreams: Contemporary Black Politics, Religion, and Culture
  • Documents Section
  • Glossary
  • Bibliographic Essay

Advance reviews:

"If you teach, study, practice, or care about African American religion, then this is the book for you. Paul Harvey provides an indispensable overview of black Christianity from the age of slavery to the ascendance of Obama. With it, Harvey offers a bevy of fascinating primary documents that range from Nat Turner's righteous rage to Mahalia Jackson's soulful songs. Through the Storm, Through the Night does it all with such clarity that even the most complex concepts make sense."—Edward J. Blum, Author, W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet

"Harvey provides an elegant and engaging introduction to the history of African American Christianity that charts the diversity of experience and expression among black Christians and illuminates the complex relationship between religion and race in American life."—Judith Weisenfeld, Princeton University


Christopher said…
Looks great, Paul. I look forward to reading it and hopefully can assign it down the road. Congrats.
Kelly Baker said…
Good, it will be out in time for my Spring 2012 class on Race and Religion in American Culture. Yay!
Edward J. Blum said…
it's a great book, Paul, and I have every intention of using it!
Randall said…
Paul: Great news about the book. Wish I was teaching Rel and Am Culture in the fall. Would love to assign it!
Thanks, this does looks great. As does the Witchcraft volume mentioned a few weeks back and Linford's forthcoming book.
Darren Dochuk said…
Congrats on the book, Paul--I can't wait to assign it!