Religion in Black America

Women engaged in praise at a Pentecostal worship service, 1941.

Religion in Black America refers to the religious and spiritual practices of African Americans. Historians generally agree that the religious life of Black Americans "forms the foundation of their community life."[1] Before 1775 there was scattered evidence of organized religion among blacks in the American colonies. The Methodist and Baptist churches became much more active in the 1780s, and growth was quite rapid for the next 150 years until they covered a majority of the people.

After Emancipation in 1863, Freedmen organized their own churches, chiefly Baptist, followed by Methodists. Other Protestant denominations, and Catholics, played smaller roles. By 1900, the Pentecostal and Holiness movements were important, and later the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Nation of Islam and el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (also known as Malcolm X) added a Muslim factor in the 20th century. Powerful pastors often played prominent roles in politics, as typified by Martin Luther King Jr., the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, and numerous others.

Religious demographics

In a survey in 2007 by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, the African-American population are found to be more religious than the U.S. population as a whole with 87% affiliated to a religion, and 79% saying that "religion is very important in their life", compared with 83% and 56% resp. for the whole of the US. The population is mostly Christian, with 83% of black Americans identifying as Christian, including 45% who identify as baptist. Catholics account for 5% of the population. 1% identify as Muslim. About 12% of African American people do not have a religion and identify as atheist or agnostic, slightly lower than the figure for the whole of the USA.[2]

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