Repairing the Breach: An ethnographic study of Black Folks Religion, its role in the Southern Freedom Movement of the 20th Century, and how it might dismantle white nationalism in the Church today

“Black Folks Religion can redeem the soul of the North American Church, liberating her from white nationalism and developing instead an anti-racist ethic and identity. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Jacqueline J. Lewis Middle Collegiate Church Contact Me

About this sabbatical grant for researchers

Race matters in the U.S. Black people make up 13% of the U.S. population, but account for 26% of COVID-19 deaths. The incarceration rate for Black people is five times the rate for Whites; both unemployment and poverty rates are twice as high for Blacks as for Whites. Black wealth is only one tenth of White wealth. The death rates for Blacks is generally higher than Whites for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza, pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and homicide. Black Americans are two-and-a-half times as likely as White Americans to be killed by police officers. In this nation, living while Black is a pre-existing condition to poverty, poor health, discrimination, and death.

From my point of view anti-Black racism is a festering sore, not only on the soul of America, but in the heart of the North American Church, which too often dilutes the gospel of Jesus with the ideologies of white nationalism, and is more often concerned with personal salvation than justice.

How can Black Folks Religion-the practical theology of the Southern Freedom Movement-provide social/psychological, exegetical, hermeneutical and tactical grounding for new liberation theologies and praxis by the North American Church? Through an ethnographic study involving interviews with 21 movement builders like Ruby Sales, Dionne Nash and Marion Wright Edelman along with "regular folk" who were influenced by the Freedom Summers; through analysis of sermons preached/ lessons taught by James Lawson, Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin Luther King Jr in settings across the deep south or what I'm calling the "way that with tears has been watered (NC, SC, MS, AL, GA, and LA); this study seeks to answer: Can Black Folks Religion liberate, teach, preach, activate and convert the Church to an anti-racist ethics and identity development across races ( including Evangelical whites)? Finally, a book of theology, liturgy, exegesis, worship and sermon prompts for congregational leaders and musicians is my aim.