New Book by Dean Josef Sorett

In Black is a Church, Josef Sorett maps the ways in which black American culture and identity have been animated by a particular set of Protestant ideas and practices in order to chart the mutually reinforcing discourses of racial authenticity and religious orthodoxy that have made Christianity essential to the very notion of blackness. In doing so, Sorett reveals the ways that Christianity, white supremacy, and colonialism coalesced in the modern category of "religion" and became formative to the emergence of black identity in North America. Black is a Church examines the surprising alliances, peculiar performances, and at times contradictory ideas and complex institutions that shape the contours of black life in the United States. The book begins by arguing that Afro-Protestantism has relied upon literary strategies to explain itself since the earliest years of its formation. Through an examination of slave narratives and spiritual autobiographies, it shows how Protestant Christianity was essential to the establishment of the earliest black literary forms. Sorett then follows Afro-Protestantism's heterodox history in the convergence of literature, politics, and religion at the end of the nineteenth century. And he shows how religious aspirations animated early calls for a "race literature" and "the color line" provided an organizing logic for religious innovations as divergent as pluralism and Pentecostalism. From the earliest literary productions of the eighteenth century to the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the twenty-first, religion--namely Protestant Christianity--is seen to be at the very center of black life in North America.

March 23, 2023