When I’ve had the opportunity to teach the history of religion in America, I’ve regularly used Albert Raboteau’s Canaan Land: A Religious History of African Americans* (Oxford University Press, 2001). I recommend it as an accessible, evenhanded historical overview of the African American religious experience in the American colonies and the United States.
A couple of decades before publishing Canaan Land, Raboteau wrote Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South* (Oxford University Press, 1978; rev. ed., 2004), which was based on his dissertation. That book became important in opening doors to a much-neglected area of American religious history. And it still deserves attention today for its insights.
Chief among those insights is his tracing of the transformation of African religious practices as Africans were transported to the New World. This theme is echoed throughout the book and appears in different forms.Continue reading