Black Lives and Sacred HumanityToward an African American Religious Naturalism

Black Lives and Sacred HumanityToward an African American Religious Naturalism

Carol Wayne White

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780823269815

Publisher: Fordham University Press


This book explores a new religious ideal within African American culture that emerges from humanistic assumptions and is grounded in religious naturalism. Identifying African American religiosity as the ingenuity of a people constantly striving to inhabit their humanity and eke out a meaningful existence for themselves amid culturally coded racist rhetoric and practices, it constructs a concept of sacred humanity and grounds it in existing hagiographic and iconic African American writings. The first part of the book argues for a concept of sacred humanity that is supported by the best available knowledge emerging from science studies, philosophy of religion, and the tenets of religious naturalism. With this concept, the book features capacious views of humans as dynamic, evolving, social organisms having the capacity to transform ourselves and create nobler worlds where all sentient creatures flourish, and as aspiring lovers of life and of each other. Within the context of African American history and culture, the sacred humanity concept also offers new ways of grasping an ongoing theme of traditional African American religiosity: the necessity of establishing and valuing blacks’ full humanity. In the second part, the book traces indications of the sacred humanity concept within select works of three major African American intellectuals of the early and mid-twentieth century: Anna Julia Cooper, W. E. B. Dubois, and James Baldwin. The theoretical linkage of select ideas and themes in their writings with the concept of sacred humanity marks the emergence of an African American religious naturalism.