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God and Blackness

Race, Gender, and Identity in a Middle Class Afrocentric Church

Andrea C. Abrams

Publication Year: 2014

Blackness, as a concept, is extremely fluid: it can refer to cultural and ethnic identity, socio-political status, an aesthetic and embodied way of being, a social and political consciousness, or a diasporic kinship. It is used as a description of skin color ranging from the palest cream to the richest chocolate; as a marker of enslavement, marginalization, criminality, filth, or evil; or as a symbol of pride, beauty, elegance, strength, and depth. Despite the fact that it is elusive and difficult to define, blackness serves as one of the most potent and unifying domains of identity. 
God and Blackness offers an ethnographic study of blackness as it is understood within a specific community—that of the First Afrikan Church, a middle-class Afrocentric congregation in Atlanta, Georgia. Drawing on nearly two years of participant observation and in‑depth interviews, Andrea C. Abrams examines how this community has employed Afrocentrism and Black theology as a means of negotiating the unreconciled natures of thoughts and ideals that are part of being both black and American. Specifically, Abrams examines the ways in which First Afrikan’s construction of community is influenced by shared understandings of blackness, and probes the means through which individuals negotiate the tensions created by competing constructions of their black identity. Although Afrocentrism operates as the focal point of this discussion, the book examines questions of political identity, religious expression and gender dynamics through the lens of a unique black church.  

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

I extend my gratitude to First African Presbyterian Church, especially Reverend Dr. Mark Lomax, Reverend Dr. Will Coleman, Reverend Dr. Itahari Toure, and the church members who participated in my research project. Your graciousness, candor, and insight made this project possible...

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Introduction: Sunday Morning: Anthropology of a Church

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pp. 1-24

First Afrikan Presbyterian Church is a standard triangle-faced red brick building surrounded by a parking lot, a few acres of grass, and several trees. Located in Lithonia, a suburb of Atlanta, the church is adjacent to several subdivisions and is the religious home of a predominantly African...

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1. The First Afrikan Way: Method and Context

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pp. 25-42

The term “Afrocentrism” was coined by the academic Molefi Kete Asante, who defines it as a “frame of reference wherein phenomena are viewed from the perspective of the African person. The Afrocentric approach seeks in every situation the appropriate centrality of the...

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2. Situating the Self: Becoming Afrikan in America

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pp. 43-70

I met with Carmen at one of the grocery stores in Lithonia. In her thirties, with creamy deep brown skin and short cropped reddish brown hair, Carmen worked as a quality-control manager for a chain of markets. Amid the din of clanging shopping carts, chattering children, and...

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3. “Who I Am and Whose I Am”: Race and Religion

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pp. 71-108

I met with Hamida one morning for breakfast. Fifty-six years old, she is a tall, slender woman with high cheek bones and a quiet attractiveness. On this morning, she wore gold-wire-rimmed glasses and was dressed in a roomy black caftan emblazoned with a golden and swirling African...

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4. Ebony Affluence: Afrocentric Middle Classness

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pp. 109-138

One Sunday, Reverend Lomax preached on the biblical character Zacchaeus and drew some compelling parallels between him and the membership of First Afrikan. The scripture for his sermon was taken from Luke 19:1–10, which is about Zacchaeus, an avaricious tax collector...

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5. Eve’s Positionality: Afrocentric and Womanist Ideologies

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pp. 139-168

I first became interested in the relationship between Afrocentrism and gendered dynamics at First Afrikan during one of my earliest visits. It was October 2003 and the pastor’s birthday. During the meet-and-greet portion of the service, he stood at the front of the church shaking...

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Conclusion: The Benediction: Ashe Ashe Ashe O

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pp. 169-178

A community is a group of people with common values who perceive themselves in some respect as distinct and who have a sense of social cohesion. At First Afrikan Presbyterian Church, community is based on the congregation’s shared Christianity, Afrocentrism, middle class status...


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pp. 179-184


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pp. 185-186

About the Author

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pp. 187

E-ISBN-13: 9780814705254
E-ISBN-10: 0814705251
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814705230
Print-ISBN-10: 0814705235

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2014