Byron Williams
AFRO 201
April 19, 2011
Kuumba Project: Topic 3

As a Negro in the slave trade during the 1800s, religion was more than an aspect in your life. It was a lifestyle. With a harsh everyday reality to cope with, slaves needed motivation to live. Belief in a God had already been a part of African culture and tradition, but times had become much harder for the people of Africa. And with difficult times, comes the need for a more passionate type of religion. It was defined by tragedy and loss created by slavery, which didnít acknowledge black people as human. The slaves also put major emphasis on religion because it was an area which white people didnít control or limit the possibilities of an African American.
The most important things a believer of any religion can receive are the message and purpose of the religion. These two are almost always delivered by a preacher or minister within the religion. It is the ministerís duty to encourage followers to invest in the religion and live their lives according to the religious guidelines. In the African American religious population, which is mostly Christian, ministry has grown to be extremely dynamic and sometimes very entertaining and over-the-top. Preaching in the black sermon contains brilliant resonance and timing so effective; it has been compared to improvised jazz (also created within the African American culture). As the minister gives his sermon, it can range from sacred to profane. An African American minister will speak on a topic that stirs controversy in society such as violence, injustice, etc. Traditional Christian ministry doesnít usually involve discussing rough issues in society. But traditional Christianity didnít contain believers who were exposed to hate and oppression as much as African Americans. In an effort to reach the congregation, the minister will preach about experiences that everyone has been through to gain support from the congregation and add ďfireĒ to the holy flame. This style of preaching can be found in virtually any Black Baptist, Methodist, or Pentecostal church. While the sermon is being delivered, the congregation will answer the preacher verbally at every opportunity, creating a call and response pattern, which often builds to a frightening intensity.
The history of the black preaching style can be carried back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, when white Presbyterian ministers began holding camp meetings outdoors in Kentucky. Presbyterian Church doctrine emphasized proper religious training for its ministers, and typical sermons preached in church often dealt with topics too difficult to relate too for the common individual. As settlers dispersed along the southern and western regions of the country, they became geographically separated from their church, and were located over such a wide area that building a central church was not in the churchís best financial interests. Since it was considered improper for a minister to preach outside the church according to Presbyterian Church philosophy, problems developed when ministers decided to hold camp meetings and disclosed remote locations. Baptist and Methodist theology practiced evangelism, and joined the early Presbyterians during these meetings. Baptist and Methodist ministers werenít trained in the seminary, and spoke in the religious tongue, preaching fire, brimstone, and damnation to the Presbyterian\'s intellectual, reserved style. Early nineteenth century camp meetings included exhibitions of "acrobatic Christianity" among the saved, including "jerks, falling, dancing, and barking".
By 1801, the south had become full with camp meetings with slaves being some of the most consistent attendees. "Field hollars" were when slaves would yell, forcing the minister to go deeper within the text from which he was preaching from. As previously mentioned, slavery plays a major role in the growth of the black church. The official Methodist church policy in 1800 was in favor of abolition of slavery, a position that the church had completely reversed by 1845. This led to northern Methodists breaking away from southern Methodists, an action also taken by the Baptists. This fading away of church doctrine can be explained by the fact that more and more poor southern whites were becoming land and slave owners, and being the largest population group among these churches, they realized that emancipation would have a negative economic impact on their lives. Black southern Methodists and Baptists then further forged their own identity to become the churches they