Carter G. Woodson's classic text on the history of African American churches is important for reasons other than "black church" history. Woodson offers an account of how Christian-based instruction and socialization shaped class divisions and vetted leadership. If read carefully, Woodson chronicles how "educated Negroes" armed with the Christian religion, Christian names, and a dream to partner (in an inferior position) with the dominant views of white society created sectarianism and two divergent visions among African descended peoples in North America. Converts split along "class" lines, and urbanized elites developed a Christian distaste for those who engaged in African-based rituals and lifeways. By the early nineteenth century, these elites began to seek equal rights and full acceptance by whites, thus the need to distance themselves from things "African." The majority of the African-based community saw racism and its insidiousness as deeply rooted in their fight for human rights, while the elites viewed slavery and discrimination as obstacles which prevented "their" particular progress.
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