African American Religions

Stefania Capone

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online August 2011 | | DOI:
African American Religions

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  • History of the Americas
  • European History
  • African History
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  • Regional and National History


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Since its beginnings, the study of African American religions has combined anthropological and historical approaches, predating the idea of Atlantic history. African American religions were the result of the colonial encounter between African, Amerindian, and European cultures; and their formation has been deeply influenced by the specificities of each colonial setting. Generally called African-derived or more recently Afro-Atlantic religions, the religious practices transplanted to the Americas through the enslavement of Africans are differently defined according to their regional background: African American religion for the “black Church” in the United States; Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian for religions such as the Haitian Vodou, the Cuban Santería or the Brazilian Candomblé. This terminology is still predominant in the literature, even if, in recent studies, it has been questioned what is exactly “Afro” in forms of religious practices that are deeply rooted in the Americas, being shared, since the second half of the 19th century, by descendants of African slaves as well as by socially white practitioners. In the last decades, from secret and persecuted religions, they have become public and respectable, reaching people from different social backgrounds, as well as foreigners, who are importing these religions to their own countries. The first works on Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Cuban religions, and African American religious life in the United States date back to the beginning of the 20th century. This long tradition of studies has produced an enormous literature in several languages (notably English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French). A bibliography on African American religions is thus necessarily selective and partial. Only the main religious practices in the Americas are included in this entry.

Article.  15228 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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