Black History Month Reading

Some Suggested Titles from AAR's Reading Religion

Reading Religion is an open book review website published by the American Academy of Religion. The site provides up-to-date coverage of scholarly publishing in religious studies, reviewed by scholars with special interest and/or expertise in the relevant subfields. Reviews aim to be concise, comprehensive, and timely.

Below, the editors of Reading Religion have selected some books and reviews from the site and have shared some titles available to review. If you’re interested in reviewing books for Reading Religion, take a look at the guidelines. If there are any books missing from the Reading Religion site that you think should be there, email [email protected].

Reviews to Read

Christian Citizens: Reading the Bible in Black and White in the Postemancipation South

By Elizabeth L. Jemison

From the review:

"[This book] does an admirable job of demonstrating not only the centrality of ‘Christian’ claims within these 19th-century debates over citizenship, but also more broadly the ways that religious interpretation can be subject to the winds of cultural and political self-interest." - Daniel R. Bare

The Souls of Womenfolk: The Religious Cultures of Enslaved Women in the Lower South

By Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh

From the review:

"[This] is not a quick introduction to the lives of enslaved people, but rather a deep and at times disturbing dive into the lives of enslaved women and how they led their communities. . . . This book will be difficult for many, but it is very important for the understanding of the enslaved community and its descendants." - Maggie Finch

A Lynched Black Wall Street: A Womanist Perspective on Terrorism, Religion, and Black Resilience in the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre

By Jerrolyn S. Eulinberg

From the review:

"As Oklahoma, and the United States more generally, begin to have an increased recognition, and a more open discussion, of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Eulinberg reminds us that this massacre, as singularly horrific as it was, is fundamentally part of a longer history of violent white supremacy." - Michael McLaughlin

Take Back What the Devil Stole: An African American Prophet's Encounters in the Spirit World

By Onaje X. O. Woodbine

From the review:

"Another important component of [this book] is Woodbine’s use of sociological, public health, and other scholarship of Black women’s experiences, particularly within Haskins’ Boston context. The incorporation of this scholarship never feels rote or pat; Woodbine does not merely recite statistics, but rather he uses this work to add texture to his account of Haskins’ experiences." - Alexandria Griffin

African American Readings of Paul: Reception, Resistance, and Transformation

By Lisa M. Bowens

From the review:

"Thurman’s example, in contradistinction to the historical example of slave petitioners, demonstrates the complicated and fluid ways that African American figures and communities understood and used Pauline texts throughout North American history." - Jamel Garrett

Available for Review

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory: Religion and the Politics of Race in the Civil War Era and Beyond

By Steven L. Dundas

From the publisher:
"Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory is a hard-hitting history of the impact of racism and religion on the political, social, and economic development of the American nation from Jamestown to today, in particular the nefarious effects of slavery on U.S. society and history. Going back to England’s rise as a colonial power and its use of slavery in its American colonies, Steven L. Dundas examines how racism and the institution of slavery influenced the political and social structure of the United States, beginning with the writing of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Dundas tackles the debates over the Constitution’s three-fifths solution on how to count Black Americans as both property and people, the expansion of the republic and slavery, and the legislation enacted to preserve the Union, including the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act—as well as their disastrous consequences."


Race and Rhyme: Rereading the New Testament

By Love Lazarus Sechrest

From the publisher:
"The narratives and letters of the New Testament emerged from a particular set of historical contexts that differ from today’s, but they resonate with us because of how the issues they raise “rhyme” with subjects of contemporary relevance. Listening for these echoes of the present in the past, Love Sechrest utilizes her cultural experience and her perspective as a Black woman scholar to reassess passages in the New Testament that deal with intergroup conflict, ethnoracial tension, and power dynamics between dominant and minoritized groups. After providing an overview of womanist biblical interpretation and related terminology, Sechrest utilizes an approach she calls “associative hermeneutics” to place select New Testament texts in dialogue with modern-day issues of racial justice."


If God Still Breathes, Why Can't I?: Black Lives Matter and Biblical Authority

By Angela N. Parker

From the publisher:
"A challenge to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy that calls into question how Christians are taught more about the way of Whiteness than the way of Jesus.
Angela Parker wasn't just trained to be a biblical scholar; she was trained to be a White male biblical scholar.

She is neither White nor male.

Dr. Parker's experience of being taught to forsake her embodied identity in order to contort herself into the stifling construct of Whiteness is common among American Christians, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. This book calls the power structure behind this experience what it is: White supremacist authoritarianism.

Drawing from her perspective as a Womanist New Testament scholar, Dr. Parker describes how she learned to deconstruct one of White Christianity's most pernicious lies: the conflation of biblical authority with the doctrines of inerrancy and infallibility. As Dr. Parker shows, these doctrines are less about the text of the Bible itself and more about the arbiters of its interpretation--historically, White males in positions of power who have used Scripture to justify control over marginalized groups."


Why Black Lives Matter: African American Thriving for the Twenty-First Century

By Anthony B. Bradley

From the publisher:
"Beginning with a conversation prompted by African American scholars like Dr. Alvin Poussaint of Harvard Medical School in 2007, to the current Black Lives Matter movement, there has been much debate about what led to the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, among others, as well as other systemic challenges that undermine black thriving. Anthony Bradley has assembled a team of scholars and religious leaders to provide a distinctly Christian perspective on what is needed for black communities to thrive from within. In addition to the social and structural issues that must be addressed, within black communities there are opportunities for social change based on God's vision for human flourishing. Covering topics like the black family, hip-hop, mental health, mentoring women, masculinity, and the church, this book will open your eyes to fresh ways to participate in solutions that will truly set black America free. Although the Black Lives Matter movement keeps the church on the margins, the authors in this volume believe that enduring change cannot happen unless God speaks directly to these issues in light of the gospel. This is a revised edition of an earlier book, Keeping Your Head Up."


Humanists in the Hood: Unapologetically Black, Feminist, and Heretical

By Sikivu Hutchinson

From the publisher:
"Feminism and atheism are "dirty words" that Americans across the political spectrum love to debate—and hate. Throw them into a blender and you have a toxic brew that supposedly defies decency, respectability, and Americana. Add an "unapologetically" Black critique to the mix and it's a deal-breaking social taboo. Putting gender at the center of the equation, progressive "Religious Nones" of color are spearheading an anti-racist, social justice humanism that disrupts the "colorblind" ethos of European American atheist and humanist agendas, which focus principally on church-state separation. These critical interventions build on the lived experiences and social histories of segregated Black and Latinx communities that are increasingly under economic siege. In this context, Hutchinson makes a valuable and necessary call for secular social justice change in a polarized climate where Black women's political power has become a galvanizing national force."


The Coming Race Wars, Expanded Edition: A Cry for Justice, from Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter

By William Pannell

From the publisher:
"In the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Fuller Seminary theologian William Pannell decried the sentiment among white evangelicals that racism was no longer an urgent matter. In The Coming Race Wars? he meticulously unpacked reasons why our nation—and the church—needed to come to terms with our complicity in America's racial transgressions before we face a more dire reckoning. Pannell was among a small number of Black evangelical leaders at the time who called the evangelical church to account on issues of racial justice. Now, nearly thirty years later, his words are as timely as ever. Some would even argue that the "race war" he predicted has arrived.

In The Coming Race Wars: A Cry for Justice, from Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter, Pannell revisits his provocative book with an expanded edition that connects its message to current events. With a new introduction by bestselling historian Jemar Tisby and a new afterword by Pannell, this compelling, heartfelt plea to the church will help today's readers take a deeper look at the complexities of institutional racism and the unjust systems that continue to confound us. "