There are several ways of approaching Black theology. One approach seeks to characterise it in terms of its history, that is, of its origins in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s. It maintains that the demands for racial justice embodied in these two movements provided the basis for the emergence of Black theology. I shall not follow this approach here since it is not the aim of this chapter to offer a detailed description of the relationship between movements of protest and Black theology in the 1960s. This has been done elsewhere.
The second but related approach starts from an interpretation of the different ways in which African-American slaves appropriated and reworked Christian faith in the context of their experience of slavery. According to this understanding Black theology represents not just a faddish attempt to redefine Christian teaching in the light of the demands of the social and political forces of the 1960s but a critical search for a historically black Christian form of reflection on issues of racial justice and liberation. The materials for such reflection come from the twin realities of slavery in the past and the experience of racism in the present. One important difference between these two approaches is that, although they both share the same understanding of Black theology, the first is very much shaped by the politics of the recent past whereas the second locates its point of departure in the history of slavery itself, with the latter being seen as a historical expression of racism.
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