In his new book Hard-Fighting Soldiers: A History of African American Churches of Christ
(University of Tennessee Press, 2019), Edward J. Robinson
provides a comprehensive look at the church’s improbable development against a backdrop of African American oppression. The journey begins with a lesser known preacher, F. F. Carson, in many ways a forerunner in the struggles and triumphs awaiting the preachers and lay people in the congregations to come. Robinson then builds on scholarship treating well-known figures, including Marshall Keeble and G. P. Bowser, to present a wide-ranging history of African American Churches of Christ from their beginnings—when enslaved people embraced the nascent Stone-Campbell Christian Movement even though founder Alexander Campbell himself favored slavery. The author moves on to examine how the churches grew under the leadership of S. R. Cassius, even as Jim Crow restrictions put extreme pressure on organizations of any kind among African Americans.
Robinson’s well-researched narrative treats not only the black male leaders of the church, but also women leaders, such as Annie C. Tuggle, as well as notable activities of the church, including music, education, and global evangelism, thus painting a complete picture of African American Churches of Christ. Through scholarship and compelling storytelling, Robinson tells the two-hundred-year tale of how “black believers survived and thrived on the discarded ‘scraps’ of America, forging their own identity, fashioning their own lofty ecclesiology and ‘hard’ theology, and creating their own papers, lectureships, liturgy, and congregations.” A groundbreaking exploration by a seasoned scholar in American religion, Hard-Fighting Soldiers
is sure to become the standard text for anyone researching the African American Churches of Christ.
Robrecus Toles is a graduate student in History at Mississippi State University. He currently researches 20th-century African American history.