In This Review

The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song
The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song
By Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Penguin Press, 2021, 304 pp

After writing over two dozen books exploring aspects of the Black experience in the United States, Gates now takes on the subject that is arguably at the center of all of them: the role of the Black church. It is an immense subject reaching back five centuries to the arrival of African slaves in the Americas. The book covers both the church’s personal, spiritual role, as a source of comfort, consolation, and dignity during slavery and its painful, lingering aftermath, and its institutional role, as the central pillar of organization and support in the struggle for social justice and political power from the time of the Underground Railroad to the present. The reader gains a deep understanding of why Black churches have so often been the target of bombings, arson, and other violence. The Black church has also nurtured the vital feeling of “somebody-ness.” Gates quotes the late businessman and civil rights activist Vernon Jordan, who described the experience of attending church on Sunday, wearing your best clothes, after a workweek of being called “boy”: “You not only were somebody, you felt like you were somebody.” Gates has written a book that fills a gaping hole and is equally eye-opening for novices and experts in the field.