Religion 250 (HONORS)
African American Religions
Fall 2017
Mary Beth Mathews
Office: Trinkle 236 Campus phone: x1354
Office Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays, 3:30 to 5 p.m. Thursdays, and gladly by appointment (Please note that occasionally this schedule may change; any changes will be posted on Canvas.)
Course Description
This course will examine the variety of African-American religious experience in this country. We will approach the topic historically, tracing African religions and their encounter with Euro-America religions first, and then move on to the religious choices African Americans made. While the course will concentrate primarily on Protestant Christianity, we will give significant attention to Roman Catholicism, the Nation of Islam, the Peace Mission Movement, Santeria, and Ethiopian Hebrews, among other religious traditions. We will also examine the role of women in shaping religion, as well as the interaction between African American communities and white communities. Students need no prior experience in religious history, but the course assumes that you possess a high-school knowledge of American history.
The following books are required and are available at the Bookstore:
African American Religious History: A Documentary Witness (2nd ed.)
Milton C. Sernett, ed.
Through the Storm, Through the Night: A History of African American Christianity
Paul Harvey
The course will also use readings posted on Canvas (marked *).
Course Schedule
8/29, 8/31 Introduction and Methods
Reading: Fulop and Raboteau, “Central Themes and Perspectives”*
9/5, 9/7 African Religions
Reading: Sernett 1-3; Harvey, Chapter 1; Albert J. Raboteau, “The African
10/5 In-class research session with Jack Bales, Simpson Library
9/12, 9/17 Initial Encounters with Christianity
Reading Sernett 4-6; Cyprian Davis, A History of Black Catholics in the United
States, Chapter 1*; Albert J. Raboteau, “Cathechesis and Conversion”*
9/19, 9/21 Slave Religion
Reading: Sernett 7-13; Harvey, Chapter 2
9/26, 9/28 Antebellum Free Blacks
Reading: Sernett 14, 15, 17, 20
10/3, 10/5 Black Catholics, the Civil War, and Emancipation
Reading: Sernett 18, 25-27, 31-32; Harvey, Chapter 4
10/10, 10/12 Women in 19th Century African American Religion/Church
Reading: Sernett 16, 19, 29, 37; Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Righteous
Discontent, Chapter 5*
10/17 NO CLASS FALL BREAK (Whoo-hoo!)
10/19 BOOK REVIEW DUE AT 11:00 a.m.
Where have we been and where are we going?
10/24, 10/26 W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington
Reading: Sernett 35, 36; W.E. B. Du Bois, “A Litany of Atlanta”*; Du Bois,
Credo”*; Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta Compromise Speech*
10/31, 11/2 The Great Migration/ Pentecostalism/Marcus Garvey
Reading: Sernett 38-40, 34, 47, 51; Harvey, Chapter 5; Valerie Cooper, “Laying the Foundations for Azusa: Black Women and Public Ministry in the Nineteenth Century”*
11/7, 11/9 Religion in the Big City: Peace Movement Mission, Moorish Science
Temple, and Ethiopian Jews
Reading: Sernett 48-50; Judith Weisenfeld, Chapters 1 and 2*
11/14, 11/16 The Civil Rights Struggle
Reading: Sernett 53-57; Harvey, Chapter 6; MLK, selected sermons*; David L. Chappell, “The Civil Rights Movement as a Religious Revival”*
11/21, 11/23 Santeria/Vodun
NO CLASS 11/23 Thanksgiving
Reading: Santeria chapter*; Vodun chapter*
11/28, 11/30 Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam, and Islam
Reading: Malcolm X speeches*; Sernett 52; Edward E. Curtis, Islam in Black
America, Chapter 6*
12/5, 12/7 African-American Religion in the post Civil-Rights Era
Reading: Sernett 58-59; Harvey, Epilogue; Fulop and Raboteau “Conflict and Resolution”
Final Presentations: December 14, noon to 2:30 p.m.
Course Requirements
Book review, 25%
Team webpage 25%
Class participation, 20%
Blog posts, 10%
Final presentation of webpage (12/14, noon to 2:30 p.m.), 20%

Blog posts
Each Tuesday by 9 a.m., you will post a brief (one paragraph) reaction blog post to the course blog ( These posts should not restate the reading but rather provide reflections on it. You should include media in your blog posts; links to articles on current events, photos of significant leaders, and/or videos transform posts from an electronic version of a paper into educational tools on the Internet. In
addition to posting your own reaction, please feel free to read those of other students and comment on them.
Book Review Guidelines
You must write one book review between three and five pages long for this class. You may consult the Bibliographic Essay in Paul Harvey’s text, or you may propose a different book to me. The book may not be a collection of essays.
Your book review must include a summary of the author’s thesis, an analysis of the author’s research techniques, and an evaluation of the success or failure of the book in question. A good book review finds both strengths and weaknesses in the work under scrutiny. You must use the Chicago Manual of Style for citations.
Digital Research Pages
You and a partner will together select an individual or congregation and create an informative web page on the course website about your chosen subject. We will work in class to develop the digital skills necessary to make these pages, and all selections are subject to my approval. In lieu of a final exam, you and your partner will present your page to the class during the scheduled final exam period. Additional information about the assignment can be found on Canvas.

Honor Code
Mary Washington’s Honor Code governs all work in this course. Your signature on any and all coursework conveys a pledge of neither giving nor receiving aid on work. You will not receive warnings about infractions, as you should know how to cite sources by this point in your academic career. Using someone else’s words, ideas, or arguments without citation is plagiarism. All work must be pledged. If you have questions, please consult with me. You may also want to familiarize yourself with the UMW Honor Code and Constitution, which you can find here:
A word about diversity in religion: this class will examine African American religions in their own context and in the context of their encounters with Euro-American religious traditions. We will not, however, engage in subjective judgments about any religion we discuss. In the classroom, as in any academic environment, we must engage in open and impartial consideration of the subject.

I expect ALL students to submit work and make presentations on the appointed days. Extensions will be granted only in EXTREME circumstances AND BEFORE the appointed day.
If you receive services through the Office of Disability Resources and require accommodations for this class, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodation needs. Bring the accommodation letter with you to the appointment. I will hold any information you share in the strictest confidence unless you give me permission to do otherwise. If you believe you need accommodations (for example, note taking assistance or extended time for tests), please consult with the Office of Disability Resources (x1266) about the appropriate documentation of a disability.
Students should remember that the class functions best without electronic interruptions. Please silence all cell phones and other electronic communication devices before the start of class. You may use computers in class for course work only (for example, taking notes, checking the outlines posted on Canvas, and looking at maps). If your activity on your computer appears to have gone beyond the above guidelines or if you are distracting those around you, I will ask you to turn off your computer or to leave the classroom. Texting during class is both counterproductive and rude to the instructor and the class. Students who text during class will lose one test point per infraction.
Course Outcomes
RELG 250 carries a Human Experience and Society General Education designation. In accordance with the student learning outcomes listed for such courses, the course has the following goals:
1) Students will gain an understanding of the roles theology, race, class, and gender have played in the development of African American religious
2) Readings from primary sources will illuminate our exploration and allow students to build evidence-based arguments about the subject material.
3) Finally, students will be able to apply the knowledge they have acquired to current events and debates.
All Religion courses seek to have students acquire factual information about different religious traditions, apply critical methods to interpret texts, communicate effectively both in writing and orally in the field of religious studies, and appreciate the diversity and richness of various religious traditions.
The Honors Program has the following objectives for this course. Students will be able to:
A. evaluate carefully the relevance of disciplinary contexts when presenting a position
using a methodology specific to the discipline of study
B. apply interdisciplinary approaches to research that demonstrates multiple disciplinary
contexts in order to articulate the value of such study
C. actively pursue independent educational experiences inside and outside of the
D. articulate an appreciation of ethical behavior and the values of good citizenship and

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