The Black Churches of Brooklyn

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9780231099806: The Black Churches of Brooklyn

The black church has always played a vital role in urban black communities. In this comprehensive and insightful history, Clarence Taylor examines the impact of this critical institution on city life and its efforts to provide support and leadership for urban African-American communities. Using Brooklyn as a national example, Taylor begins with the history of mainline (Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Methodist) churches of the nineteenth century, which modified the practices of "white" churches to meet the needs of their growing congregations. These churches brought culture to their members as a mode of resistance by establishing church auxiliaries and clubs such as art and literary societies, traditionally reserved for white churches. In addition, they endorsed the education of the clergy, thereby demonstrating to American society at large that African Americans possessed the sophistication and the means to pursue and to promote culture. More exuberant and less formal than the "elite" churches, Holiness-Pentecostal churches formed the next group to influence community life in Brooklyn. By providing a stable space in which people could network, organize church and community groups, and simply socialize, they offered a myriad of activities and programs for entertainment as well as moral uplift. In short, despite the existence of firm denominational lines, the church as an institution actively answered the educational, religious, and social needs of African Americans while remaining fully involved in the general cultural and political events that affected all Americans. On a more controversial note, the book charts the successes and failures of prominent ministers, who led Brooklyncommunities through McCarthyism, the civil rights movement, Johnson's War on Poverty, and the ghettoization of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the largest African-American community in the borough. With an eye on the future, Taylor analyzes the black clergy's response to the problems endemic

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From Publishers Weekly:

This is an informative though not comprehensive study of black churches. Taylor, who teaches history at LeMoyne College in upstate New York, focuses on Brooklyn because by mid-century, "many of [its] churches had thousands of members, offered a variety of social services to the black community, were important cultural centers, and had nationally renowned pastors." He traces the values, theology and public profile of the late 19th-century churches, noting that while African Methodist and Baptist denominations were initially dominant, by the mid-20th century, Holiness-Pentecostal became the fastest-growing. He charges black ministers in Bedford-Stuyvesant, tied to the major political parties, with doing too little to stem the neighborhood's deterioration in the 1960s, a topic Taylor might have probed further. He also devotes a chapter to the role of black women in the church and concludes with brief sketches of six politically active ministers, including the Reverend Al Sharpton.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

This detailed history surveys a vital force within the Bedford-Stuyvesant community, showing how 19th-century black churches emulated the white mainstream, Pentecostalism became a major force in the early 20th century, and civil rights issues came to the fore during the 1963 Downtown Medical Center job protests. Applying hindsight, Taylor (history, LeMoyne Coll.) harshly criticizes ministers as ineffectual outside of the religious arena before this radicalizing event. Yet in a closing survey of current church leaders, he portrays the Rev. Al Sharpton as a counterproductive charlatan. The brief portrait of the Rev. Johnny Youngblood does not cite Samuel G. Freedman's Upon This Rock (LJ 1/93), an exciting survey of Youngblood's ministry. For informed lay readers.
Richard S. Watts, San Bernardino Cty. Lib., Cal.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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