Sylvester Johnson

African American Religions, 1500-2000

Colonialism, Democracy, and Freedom

Cambridge University Press 2015

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in African StudiesNew Books in American StudiesNew Books in Christian StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network December 29, 2016 Kristian Petersen

When and where do African American religions begin? Sylvester Johnson, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Religious Studies at Northwestern University, disrupts the...

When and where do African American religions begin? Sylvester Johnson, Associate Professor of African American Studies and Religious Studies at Northwestern University, disrupts the traditional temporal and geographical boundaries in the academic study of black religion in the Americas in his new book, African American Religions, 1500-2000: Colonialism, Democracy, and Freedom (Cambridge University Press, 2015). Johnson places the productive forces in African American religion at the intersection of empire and colonialism and within the constructs of notions of democratic freedom. His study requires this analytical reformulation in order to examine how Black religious history unfolds within changing social and political contexts over the longue duree. In our conversation we discussed Afro-European commercialism, European views on Indigenous African religious practices, Black Christianization, violent state regulation, nineteenth century political theologies, Black settler colonialism and the creation of Liberia, Garveyism, African American Muslims, anticolonial movements, the racialization of religion, FBI surveillance and repression of Black religious movements, the connection between the history of African American Religions and Muslims Americans after 9/11, and interdisciplinarity.


Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, Human Rights, and Media Studies. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at [email protected].

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