Black theology

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Black theology refers to a variety of Black theologies which have as their base the liberation of the marginalized, especially the injustice committed against African Americans and black South Africans during American segregation and apartheid, respectively. Black theology mixes Christianity with the civil rights and Black Power movements.

Beliefs and doctrines


Intricate and largely philosophical views of God are largely ignored in preference for the concerns of the oppressed. The Old Testament God of Moses freeing the ancient Hebrews from Egyptian rulers was the central theme of African American popular religion, as well as, abolitionists like Harriet Tubman.[1] White Christian concepts taught to black persons that they are to be disregarded or ignored. The aspects of God's person, his power and authority, as well as "subtle indications of God's white maleness" are said not to relate to the black experience, to the extent of sometimes being antagonistic. While trinitarian theology is a big concern, Jesus is still considered to be God. The focus is given to God's actions, and his delivering of the oppressed because of his righteousness. Immanence is stressed over transcendence, and as a result God is seen to be "in flux" or "always changing".[2]


Many believe Jesus Christ to be God's son, or God incarnated. Many blacks believe that he came to save the world from sin. This is also a common belief among white people, as well as the Asians and Mexicans.


Black theology is not bound to biblical literalism, but is of a more pragmatic nature. Only the experience of black oppression is the authoritative standard.


Salvation is a collective freedom from the oppression and pertains to blacks in this life. Proponents of black theology are concerned specifically with the political and theological aspects of salvation more than the spiritual. In other words, salvation is physical liberation from white oppression, or "The white enemy" (Cone) rather than freedom from the sinful nature and acts of each individual person. Presenting heaven as a reward for following Christ is seen as an attempt to dissuade blacks from the goal of real liberation of their whole persons.

"A white man who is in power cannot be a Christian, unless he gives up that power and gives it to the black man" - James Cone on Black Theology


The church is the focus of social expression in the black community where the Black church can express freedom and equality. Thus the church and politics have formed a cohesion where the theological expression of the desire for social freedom is carried out.

South African theology

Black theologies were popularized in southern Africa in the early 1970s by Basil Moore, a Methodist theologian in South Africa. It helped to give rise to, and developed in parallel with, the Black Consciousness Movement. Black theology was particularly influential in South Africa and Namibia for motivating resistance to apartheid. See the Kairos Document.

Southern African black theologians include Barney Pityana, Allan Boesak, Itumeleng Mosala and Zephania Kameeta.

UK black theology

In the United Kingdom, Dr Robert Beckford is a prominent black theology practitioner. He was the first in the UK to develop and teach a course on Black Theology at an academic level. Black Theology: An International Journal[3] is published in the UK. It is edited by Anthony Reddie, who has written over 40 journal articles, essays and books and is the most prolific black theology author in the UK today.

Significant People

  • James H. Cone - born August 5, 1938. Currently a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
  • Dwight N. Hopkins - Currently a professor at the Divinity School at the University of Chicago.
  • Cornel West - born 1954. Currently a professor at Princeton University.

See also


Church planting

  • Ratliffe, Joe S. & Michael J. Cox, Church Planting in the African American Community, Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2002. 111 pages.


  • Cone, James H. The Spirituals and the Blues, Mary Knoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1991.
  • Mapson, J. Wendell, Jr., The Ministry of Music in the Black Church, Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1984
  • Walker, Wyatt Tee. Somebody's Calling My Name: Black Sacred Music and Social Change, Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1979.

Practical ministry

  • Aldred, Joe. Preaching With Power, London: Cassells, 1998
  • Andrews, Dale P. Practical Theology for Black Churches, Luisville: John Knox Press, 2002
  • Cosby, Kevin W. Get Off Your But! Messages Musings and Ministries to Empower the African American Church, Lithonia, Georgia: Orman Press, 2000.
  • Crawford, Evans E. The Hum: Call and Response in African American Preaching. Nashville: Abingdon, 1995.
  • Kellar, Marcel. Timothy, Stir Up Your Gift!, Nashville: MEGA Corporation, 2000.
  • Mitchell, Henry H. and Thomas, Emil M. Preaching for Black Self-Esteem, Nashville: Abingdon, 1994.
  • Reddie, Anthony. Nobodies to Somebodies: Practical Theology for Education and Liberation, Peterborough: Epworth Press, 2003
  • Taylor, Edward L. comp. The Words of Gardner Taylor, Volume 1: NBC Radio Sermons (1959–1970). Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1999.
  • Thomas, Walter S., Spiritual Navigation for the 21st Century: Sermons from Walter Thomas. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2000.
  • Trimiew, Darryl M., Editor. Out of Mighty Waters: Sermons by African American Disciples, St. Louis: Chalice Press, 1994.
  • Waters, Kenneth L. Afrocentric Sermons: The Beauty of Blackness in the Bible, Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1993.
  • Wimberly, Edward P. Moving From Shame to Self-Worth: Preaching and Pastoral Care, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999.
  • Wright, Jeremiah A. Africans Who Shaped Our Faith: A Study of Ten Biblical Personalities, Chicago: Urban Ministries, 1995
  • Wright, Jr., Jeremiah A. Good News: Sermons of Hope for Today's Families, Valley Forge: Judson, 1995.
  • Wright, Jr., Jeremiah A. What Makes You So Strong?: Sermons of Joy and Strength from Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1993.


  • Douglas, Kelly Brown. Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective, Mary Knoll, NY: Orbis Books.
  • Kornegay, Jr., EL. "Queering Black Homophobia: Black Theology as a Sexual Discourse of Transformation", London: Continuum.
  • Kornegay, Jr., EL. A Queering of Black Theology: James Baldwin's Blues Project and Gospel Prose, New York: Palgrave Press, 2013.

Social issues

  • Billingsley, Andrew. Mighty Like a River: The Black Church and Social Reform, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Fluker, Walter Earl, The Stones that the Builders Rejected: The Development of Ethical Leadership from the Black Church Tradition, Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1998.
  • Franklin, Robert M. Another Day's Journey: Black Churches Confronting the American Crisis, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997.
  • Grant, Paul and Patel, Raj (Eds.) A Time To Act: Kairos 1992 Birmingham: A joint publication of Racial Justice and the Black Theology Working Group, 1992.
  • Harris, Forrest E. Ministry for Social Crisis: Theology and Praxis in the Black Church Tradition, Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1993
  • January, Jerald. A Second Time: Examining the Sin of Racial Division that Remain in the Church Today, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
  • Malone, Dr. Walter, Jr. An Operative Faith for Oppressed People, Nashville: National Baptist Publishing Board, 1988.
  • Sawyer, Mary R. Black Ecumenism: Implementing the Demands of Justice, Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1998.

Sociological and historical studies

  • Andersson, Efraim. Churches at the Grassroots, London: Lutterworth Press, 1968
  • Arnold, Bruce Makoto. "Shepherding a Flock of a Different Fleece: A Historical and Social Analysis of the Unique Attributes of the African American Pastoral Caregiver." The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling 66, no. 2 (June 2012).
  • Cone, James H. and Wilmore, Gayraud S. Black Theology A Documentary History: Vol 1. 1966-1979, New York: Orbis Books, 1992
  • Cone, James H. and Wilmore, Gayraud S. Black Theology A Documentary History: Vol 2. 1980- 1992, New York: Orbis Books, 1993
  • Ela, Jean-Marc. African Cry, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1986
  • Frazier, E. Franklin. The Black Church in America, New York: Shocken Books, 1964
  • Jagessar, Michael N. and Anthony G. Reddie (eds.) Postcolonial Black British Theology, Peterborough, Epworth: 2007
  • Jagessar, Michael N. and Anthony G. Reddie (eds.) Black Theology in Britain: A Reader, London, Equinox: 2007
  • Lincoln, C. Eric, The Black Church in the African American Experience, Durham, N.Y.: Duke University Press, 1990
  • Paris, Peter J. The Social Teaching of the Black Churches, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.
  • Paris, Peter J. The Spirituality of African Peoples, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995
  • Pinn, Anne and Anthony B. Black Church History, Fortress Press, 2002
  • Rabateau, Albert. Slave Religion, Oxford University Press, 1978
  • Reddie, Richard S., Abolition! The Struggle to Abolish Slavery in the British Colonies, Lion Hudson PLC: Oxford, 2007.
  • Reddie, Anthony. Faith, Stories and the Experience of Black Elders, London: Jessica Kingsley, 2001
  • Sernett, Milton C. African American Religious History: A Documentary Witness, Duke University Press (2nd ed), 1999, ISBN 0-8223-2449-0
  • Terrell, JoAnne Marie. Power in the Blood: The Cross in the African American Experience, New York: Orbis books, 1998
  • Wilkinson, John. Church in Black and White, St. Andrews Press, 1994
  • Williams, Ethel L. and Clifton F. Brown, Howard University Bibliography of African and Afro American Religious Studies: With Locations in American Libraries, SR Books, 1977, ISBN 0-8420-2080-2
  • Wilmore, Gayraud. Black Religion and Black Radicalism, New York: Orbis Books, 1973.
  • Wilmore, Gayraud and Cone, James H. (Eds.) "Black Theology: A Documentary History, 1966-1979", Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1979. pp. 350–359

Theology and philosophy

  • Anyabwile, Thabiti M. and Mark A. Noll. The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity, Inter-Varsity Press, 2007.
  • Bailey, Randall C. and Jacquelyn Grant, editors. The Recovery of Black Presence: An Interdisciplinary Exploration, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995.
  • Bond, Gilbert I. Community, Communitas, and Cosmos: Toward a Phenomenological Interpretation and Theology of Traditional Afro-Christian Worship, New York: University Press of America, 2002
  • Bond, Gilbert I., A Phenomenology of Reconciliation: Diasporic Community, Cerole Consciousness, and the Religious Life of Paul, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000.
  • Bridges, Flora Wilson. Resurrection Song: African-American Spirituality (The Bishop Henry McNeal Turner/Sojourner Truth Series in Black Religion, Mary Knoll: Orbis Books, 2000.
  • Cone, James H. God of the Oppressed, New York: Seabury Press, 1975
  • Cone, James H. For My People: Black Theology and the Black Church, New York: Orbis Books, 1984
  • Cone, James H. My Soul Looks Back, New York: Orbis Books, 1986
  • Cone, James H. Black Theology and Black Power (20th Anniversary Edition), New York: Harper SanFrancisco, 1989
  • Cooper-Lewter, Nicholas. Soul Theology: The Heart of American Black Culture, Nashville: Abingdon.
  • Douglas, Kelly Brown. The Black Christ (Bishop Henry McNeal Turner/Sojourner Truth Series in Black Religion), New York: Orbis Books, 1994
  • Duffield, Ian K. (ed) Urban Christ: Responses to John Vincent, Sheffield: UTU, 1997
  • Evans, Jr., James H. We Have Been Believers: An African American Systematic Theology, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992
  • Felder, Cain Hope Stony. The Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991
  • Gerloff, Roswith I. H. A Plea for British Black Theologies, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1992
  • Hood, Robert E. Must God Remain Greek?: Afro-Cultures and God-Talk, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990
  • Hood, Robert E. Begrimmed and Black: Christian Traditions on Blacks and Blackness, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994
  • Hope, Marjorie and Young, James. The South African Churches in a Revolutionary Situation, Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1979
  • Hopkins, Dwight N. (Ed.) Black Faith and Public Talk: Critical Essays on James H. Cone’s Black Theology and Black Power, New York: Orbis Books, 1999
  • Hopkins, Dwight N. Introducing Black Theology of Liberation, New York: Orbis book, 1999
  • Hopkins, Dwight N. Down, Up and Over: Slave Religion and Black Theology, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000
  • Hopkins, Dwight N. and Cummings, George. Cut Loose Your Stammering Tongue: Black Theology and the Slave Narratives, New York: Orbis Books, 1991
  • Jennings, Theodore W. Good News to the Poor, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990
  • Jones, William R. Is God a White Racist? Boston: Beacon Press, 1998.
  • Kalilombe, Patrick A. Doing Theology at the Grassroots, Gweru, Zimbabwe: Mambo Press, 1999.
  • Okholm, Dennis L. The Gospel in Black & White: Theological Resources for Racial Reconciliation, Inter-varsity Press, 1997.
  • Pinn, Anthony B. Why Lord?: Suffering and Evil in Black Theology, New York: Continuum, 1995
  • Pinn, Anthony B. Terror and Triumph: The Nature of Black Religion, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003
  • Reddie, Anthony. Black Theology in Transatlantic Dialogue, Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
  • Reddie, Anthony. Dramatizing Theologies, London: Equinox, 2006.
  • Reddie, Anthony Working Against The Grain: Re-imaging Black Theology in the 21st Century, London: Equinox, 2008.
  • Reddie, Anthony Is God Colour Blind?: Insights from Black Theology for Christian Ministry, London: SPCK, 2009
  • Reddie, Anthony Black Theology, Slavery and Contemporary Christianity, Basingstoke: Ashgate, 2010
  • Reddie, Anthony SCM Core Text: Black Theology, London: SCM press, 2012
  • Roberts, J. Deotis. Africentric Christianity: A Theological Appraisal for Ministry, Judson Press, 2000.
  • Roberts, J. Deotis. Black Religion, Black Theology, Continuum International, 2003.
  • Roberts, J. Deotis. Black Theology in Dialogue, Westminster, John Knox, 1987.
  • Roberts, J. Deotis. Liberation and Reconciliation: A Black Theology, Westminster, John Knox, 2005.
  • Roberts, J. Deotis. The Prophethood of Black Believers: An African-American Political Theology for Ministry, Westminster, John Knox, 1994.
  • Roberts, Samuel K. In the Path of Virtue: The African American Moral Tradition, Cleveland: Pilgrim Press, 1999.
  • Roberts, Samuel K. African American Christian Ethics, Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2001.
  • Sanders, Cheryl J. Empowerment Ethics for a Liberated People, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1995.
  • Singleton III, Harry H. Black Theology and Ideology, Collgeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2002.
  • Society for Biblical Literature, Reading The Bible in The Global Village, Cape Town, No.3, Atlanta: Society for Biblical Literature, 2002
  • West, Cornel. African American Religious Thought: An Anthology, Westminster, John Knox, 2004.

Women in ministry

  • Aldred, Joe. Sisters with Power, London: Continuum, 2000
  • Collier-Thomas, Bettye. Daughters of Thunder: Black Women Preachers and Their Sermons 1850-1979, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1998.
  • Lightner, Ann Farrar. And Your Daughters Shall Preach: Developing a Female Mentoring Program in the African American Church, St. Louis: Hodale Press, Inc., 1995.
  • Reddie, Anthony Legacy: Anthology in Memory of Jillian Brown Peterborough: Methodist Publishing House, 2000


  • Felder, Cain Hope. The African Heritage Study Bible, Nashville, Tenn. The James C. Winston Publishing Company, 1993
  • "Black Theology: An International Journal", Equinox Publishing Ltd., published three times per year. Dr Anthony Reddie, Ed, email:


  1. Feiler, Bruce. (2009). America's prophet: how the story of Moses shaped America. New York: Harper Perennial. pp. 134-9. ISBN 978-0-06-057488-8.
  2. Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine by H. Wayne House
  3. Black Theology: An International Journal

External links