Then We’ll Sing a New Song
Author’s note: Wayne A. Young of Port of Harlem asks, “How many White evangelical Christians are in Japan delivering aid or calling Shinto, luxury Acura manufactures ignorant while counting the Christian conversations they make?” Included in his response “Respecting Our Ancestors’ Religion” is an in-depth review of Then We’ll Sing a Song.
As an independent scholar, Clark (Santeria) uses an unconventional approach to religious inquiry to develop a comprehensive look at African spiritual beliefs within and beyond the black church in America. Religious practices from three African kingdoms that supplied the majority of people sold during the Atlantic slave trade are described before and after America’s Second Great Awakening. Clark argues that the combined effect of Africans’ religious resilience and a gradual American acceptance allowed ecstatic trance possession and ritual performance to become more popular across demographics in American Christianity. Readers with interests that span the Yoruba-derived religions like Santeria, Vodou, Hoodoo, and Candomble will find respectful analyses of syncretic African religions around the world, along with a helpful glossary and timeline. Clark’s main thesis is that many African-Americans converted to Christianity as slaves while simultaneously infusing Christianity with African spiritualism and divination-based beliefs.
The last few years have seen a continuing and important reevaluation of the black experience of Christianity in America; this contribution by independent scholar Clark (religious studies, Univ. of Houston, Clear Lake) is one of the more readable and thoughtful studies. In well-researched chapters, Clark shows the profound and distinctive contributions of three of the African regions from which many slaves were brought to the New World: the kingdom of Kongo, the Oyo empire, and the kingdom of Dahomey. VERDICT A brief, concise, and flowingly written narrative of some of the most telling components of black religion in America, this book will be a fine introduction for the general reader, as well as a resource for black churches and university courses.
— Library Journal
Mary Ann Clark has skillfully and creatively presented Then We’ll Sing a New Song, a book that should make a major and immediate impact on the study of religion in America, African religions, and world religions.
— Stephen C. Finley, Louisana State University
From the Cover
Clark places the African heritage of the United States squarely within the history of American religion. She shows that along with the settlers of Plymouth Colony and Jamestown, Africans from Kongo, Yorubaland, and Dahomey have brought religious sensibilities which have shaped American religious life. In clear and lively prose, Clarke demonstrates how African religious beliefs and practices have enhanced American religion and distinguished it from its European antecedents.
— Joseph M. Murphy, Tagliabue Professor of Interfaith Studies and Dialogue, Georgetown University
Mary Ann Clark’s brilliant and balanced book explores African influences on religions in the Americas without sacrificing evidence for either the African sources or the independent religious communities in the Americas. The strength of this remarkable book is the careful manner in which Clark has brought together different religious sensitivities that have shaped religious experience in Africa and the Americas.
— Elias Kifon Bongmba, Harry and Hazel Chavanne Chair in Christian Theology, professor of religious studies, Rice University ; president of the African Association for the Study of Religion
Mary Ann Clark’s book is a much needed revision of the standard picture of religion in America. Instead of presenting African culture as lost in the sea of European Christianity, this book reveals that African sensibilities and ideas were formative for the development of Protestantism as we know it. I recommend this book to everyone who is used to treating the development of Protestantism in America and the history of the Black Church as separate fields. It should be required reading for any course in the history of religion in America.
— Alice Wood, Bethune-Cookman University