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.
Paul Harvey —
Paul Harvey is professor of history at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He is the author of Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial Identities Among Southern Baptists, 1865–1925 and Freedom's Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era.
Harvey, Paul. Through the storm, through the night: a history of African American Christianity. Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. 217p bibl index afp; ISBN 9780742564756 e-book; ISBN 9780742564732. Outstanding Title! Reviewed in 2012jan CHOICE.
Books abound on the African American religious experience in the US, but Harvey's work is a welcome addition and succinct summary of its 400-year history. Typically in such short monographs, detail is sacrificed for brevity, but Harvey (history, Univ. of Colorado, Colorado Springs) packs great substance through insightful biographies and aptly summarized historical events. He argues against any uniform African American church or religious experience, as African Americans experienced varied contacts with Christianity and often mixed traditional African spiritualism and animistic beliefs. Unquestionably, religious beliefs infused the African American community with hope as they struggled through slavery, Jim Crow legislation, segregation, race-oriented violence, and the civil rights movement. Harvey concludes that though the church is still relevant and Christian denominations are still predominant in the African American community, 21st-century immigrants continue to challenge this narrative, as the Orisha traditions of West and Central Africans, Cuban Santería, Haitian Catholicism and Voodoo, Ethiopian Eastern Orthodoxy, and Islamic influences further heighten diversity. The author notes that clannish and local community traditions among these immigrants overshadow any presumed unity based on skin color. In summary, Harvey creates a broad panoramic of the African American religious experience and challenges future scholars to increase scholarly attention to this field.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. -- M. S. Hill, Gordon College