At the core of African American religion’s response to social inequalities has been a symbiotic relationship between socio-political activism and spiritual restoration. Drawing on archival material and ethnographic fieldwork with African American Spiritual Churches in the USA, this book examines how their spiritual and social work can shed light on the interplay between corporate activism and individual spirituality.

This book traces the development of this "politico-spiritual" approach to injustice from the beginning of the twentieth century through the opening decade of the twenty-first century, using the work of African American Spiritual Churches as a lens through which to observe its progression. Addressing subjects such as spiritual healing, support of the homeless, gender equality and the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, it demonstrates that these communities are clearly motivated by the dual concerns of the soul and the community.

This study diversifies our understanding of the African American religious landscape, highlighting an approach to social injustice that conjoins both political and spiritual transformations. As such, it will be of significant interest to scholars of religious studies, African American studies and politics.

chapter |8 pages


Protest or accommodation: political engagement in African American religion

chapter 1|30 pages

Setting the agenda

Social activism in New Orleans’ first Spiritualist Church

chapter 2|28 pages

Mother to the motherless

Mother Catherine Seal’s Manger for the homeless

chapter 3|28 pages

Laying on hands

Healing as a form of political activism and spiritual restoration

chapter 4|27 pages

Let the women speak

Gender equality and self-empowerment in African American Spiritual Churches

chapter 5|35 pages

After the storm

The response of African American Spiritual Churches to shifting landscapes in post-Katrina New Orleans

chapter |2 pages


A politico-spiritual approach to social activism: implications for African American religion