Focus; Religion and African American Identity
In this part of focus will be talking with a scholar who is well known for having written about African-American religious history and its place in American public life. His name is Eddie Glaude and he is associate professor in the department of religion at Princeton University. He's going to be visiting the campus here of the University of Illinois next week to take part in a conference being sponsored in part by African-American studies and research. And we were not able to get him into the schedule during the time that he was here but we did want to take the opportunity to talk with him and he was good enough to say you would join us this morning on the program from Princeton where he is and what we want to do is talk a little bit about some of his work particularly some of the ideas that you will find in a book that he has authored the title is Exodus religion race and a nation in early 19th century black America. A book was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2000 and was based on his dissertation for his Ph.D.. The book In short takes a look at the biblical story of the Exodus on how it was used
by black Americans both to build a sense of nationalism and also how that same story that very same story energized the black church in its struggle for liberation. As we talk you're certainly welcome people who are listening certainly are welcome to call in ask questions make comments. The number here in Champaign-Urbana where we are 3 3 3 9 4 5 5. We do also have a toll free line and that is good. Anywhere that you can hear us around Illinois Indiana it would be a long distance call for you. Use that number and actually even people who are listening on the Internet if you would happen to be doing that and in the United States you may also use the toll free line that is 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 4 Champaign Urbana and toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. Well Professor Glaude Hello. Hello. Thanks very much for talking with us. Glad to be here with you. Looking forward to my visit next week.
Well we're I'm sure the people here on the campus are as well and we're glad that you could here be with us in this form even though you we couldn't talk with you in person when you were going to be here next week. In the book the very first line of the very first chapter of your book about Exodus you write no other story in the Bible has quite captured the imagination of African-Americans like that of Exodus. No surprise really when you read about what that story is about. And although you make the argument that there are perhaps a couple of different ways of looking at this story maybe more than a couple but I'm thinking about the fact that it is in one sense a it is a religious story. It is about religious faith and it is about a people and their expectation that their god will come through on a promise. So that is certainly one way of looking at it and people do but it's also in some ways a political story. And it's that second kind of
reading that for your purposes and for purposes of this book is the thing that you're really more interested in and maybe I could have you talk a little bit about that and and what is the the difference the essential difference between seeing this seeing exodus as something that's about faith. As opposed to seeing it that something that's more about politics. It's a great question but before I begin let me just say that my thoughts and prayers go out to all of the families on the Gulf Coast of the United States who grew up in Moss Point Mississippi which is about 30 miles east of Biloxi. So my thoughts and prayers go out to all the families in New Orleans and on the coast of Mississippi and Alabama. And as we have this conversation today about what some people might be abstract matters I just wanted to let folks know that these people my family and other families are on my mind. It's important to understand that the Exodus
story was central to the kind of imagining of America itself right when we began to make this distinction between viewing the story as a kind of religious narrative and the story having political value. When we begin to think about the formation of the colonies we begin to think of one trope that constantly shows up of course is that kind of fleeing from religious persecution. And so there is this idea that moving from the Old World to the new will afford folk the possibility to worship in the way that they freely choose. And part of imagining that journey from old to new on the part of Europeans not just simply black folk on the part of Europeans Europeans involved. Imagine ing it as a travel from Egypt to Canaan land so the Exodus story has been central to America's self fashioning and African-Americans who entered this nation in voluntarily as everyone was
noted in irony in that story. Right place that was once to imagine once imagined as the promised land was in fact Egypt. And so because of the kind of constant circulation of the Exodus narrative in the formation of America itself the tropes of the story were readily available to folk immigrants or former slaves and slaves to kind of imagine themselves in relation to this grand but fragile experiment in democracy. Now that's to say that religious narratives religious languages have always offered themselves and particularly the United States to being tools or languages and political life. People use languages such as Grace or language as redemptive suffering you know these sorts of phrases are always circulated in our political political lives and the Exodus
story in interesting sorts of ways has been paramount terms of being a resource for drawing on political languages to talk about notions of freedom to talk about notions of justice to talk about ideas of duty and notions of the right or notions of justice broadly understood. And so I think we need to be just very clear on how central the story has been to America itself fashioning how the religious stories generally the Exodus story in particular offer political languages for folk to engage in debates about their particular circumstances. This is something that I think is so fascinating and not to put too fine a point on it but this idea that as you outlined that this story for Americans has always been important for white Americans though they saw America as the promised land. And ironically enough black Americans people who were brought here as slaves. This was in the promised land this was Egypt and the rulers were
Pharaoh in all senses of the metaphorical and otherwise. And to have those two groups of Americans essential European Americans and black Americans into the same story and find meaning in it but for today very different ways and I find that really fascinating. Yeah I mean it just shows you the way in which language works. Right. I mean it's multiple meanings. Science fiction sometimes arbitrary ways. So there's a sense in which the story of the Exodus story is broad enough to capture a number of different political orientations from folk arguing for freedom to folk justifying repression to folks justifying conquering of the lands of the name of God so the story is broad enough to capture a range of political orientations aims and ambitions. And so it's not surprising that you confide in in one particular space to different groups reading the same story but finding different points of entry and different
resources to articulate very different aims one to justify their continued subordination of another group of folk and another for another group of people using that very story to articulate their aspirations for freedom and justice. And that's the beauty of these religious narratives right there not if there's no one fixed meaning to say once and for all what the story is about. Did something else that I think is also interesting is that there are apparently four African-Americans looking at this story that also they. They perhaps had different ways of looking at what the what the message of the story was and particularly I guess I'm thinking of the promise of freedom in what it was that it would take to get that and whether this was whether in fact you could say that this this would be it was appropriate for this to be a violent struggle and for those people who said Well really what it what this is is it's a
moral struggle and should not and violence is the kind of it should simply be off the table and talking about how to get from where they are to where they want to be. Well you know I mean it was interesting is that the Exodus story is filled with violence particularly when we think about the conquering of Canaan. The conquering of Canaan involves moral justification in some ways. According to sermon some interpretations it's a command of God to go slay the Giants so there's no necessary contradiction between violence and moral comportment to the will of God at least in these biblical stories right I mean you can redact a story in such a way that you can read it of all the violence that that it involves But violence is everywhere in this account. But I think it's important to see where the accents or you know what parts of the story do people
find their feet. You know what I mean. And in this instance what we see is that among African-American interpretations of the Exodus story and in some ways when we look at kind of debates among. Jewish populations about how we ought to read the story missed fresh accounts we see folk making different sorts of claims and what we see is that what's really important is one's moral comportment to the will of God how does one treat others. How does one orient oneself to the kind of commitment that one is engaged in with a live one. How does one live one's life to reflect that will so righteousness becomes a key component of a kind of exodus politics as I'm reading it. Violence is a part of it but it's not a necessary part of it. Right. There's a chapter in the book where I talk where I do a reading of Henry Highland Barnett's 1840 address to the slaves and
he makes the claim that Pharaoh is on both sides of the blood red waters. In fact he's trying to get African-Americans outside of the Exodus story. Precisely because he feels that on a certain reading Black folk are waiting waiting for God to deliver them to deliver them to the banks of Jordan and eventually to Canaan. And for Garnett who was an African-American preacher he wanted to offer a different language he was actually trying to encourage slave revolt. But there's a count of politics that could be voiced within the narrative and that's Exodus politics which concerns oneself with how one ethically comports oneself with the will of God without recourse to violence but we need to be mindful though that violence is in the story. If they can't clean it up I'm sure the people will understand just how important the church has been to for African-Americans first in the struggle involving slavery
in the civil rights movement was was that an institution that simply was uniquely positioned to do that right from the very beginning. I guess I'm just wondering about that. Again the resonance with this particular story whether that that helped to establish a kind of a leadership position for the church and for people of faith or whether in fact that was there already. And that is that in fact maybe the story helped to give some structure to that but that that institution was there and was was ready to take on that position of leadership. Well I can imagine prior to the formation of black congregations that eventually independent black congregations. There were individuals who exhibited extraordinary leadership capabilities and offered extraordinary visions to
folk as they themselves Imagine freedom and imagine freedom perhaps in non religious or secular terms or non-Christian terms to be even more specific. But what the church and we use that as a heuristic right is a shorthand for a number of different expressions of religious faith. What the black church cuz represents an interesting sorts of ways is the kind of beginning of black civil society out of which most of the kind of black life emerged. There's this wonderful quote in the boys the Souls of Black Folk where he says the black church predates the black family. Right. There's this institution that provided an occasion for black folk to gather to reflect on their relationships with God in their relationship with one another without sanction for the most part although often times it was under. Kind of white paternal gaze. So the church provided in the arena within which black folk could imagine themselves as self-determining agents. The church also in interesting sorts
of ways provided black folk with the language to imagine themselves as free self-determining agents is of course a secular kind of way of formulating it but they saw themselves more as children of God and so they were beholden to the master with a capital M as opposed to the master small him. And by seeing themselves as children of God for home and God of course there is a respect of no persons in some significant way that the church provided them with languages to short circuit the logic in forming slavery that the slave was just simply a means to the master's in. So you know what I mean. And so by seeing themselves as children understanding themselves as children of God they put in place the conditions for the possibility for them to imagine themselves apart from slavery apart from the constraints imposed by slave masters that there's no guarantee that it resulted in progressive politics we don't want to make that we don't want to make that easier to say by virtue of believing themselves or understand of themselves as
children of God it necessarily created a radical politics. No that's not necessarily the case but it's certainly put in place to conditions for the possibility for black folk to resist structures of domination that define their lives up to that point. Something else that you deal with is the idea of black nationalism and how this story also helps to. Lay a foundation for that and perhaps you can talk about that as well and what sort of directions that go that goes in particularly I guess with folk at the time we're thinking about the possibility of black Americans truly being black Americans and somehow part of that nation or whether there was the idea that in fact that such a thing wasn't really AP's hostile. It's one of the controversial claims of the book that I try to make the argument that in some ways this story offered up ways to
Madge and black solidarity that constitute an interesting source of ways the kind of common sense. Foundation for any kind of nationalist politics. And it proceeds on the assumption that it's strange that most folks hold the view that black nationalism is or ought to be a minority position. Among African-Americans in the United States when in fact given how we entered the modern world is somebody else's belongings It would seem that the kind of discourse of communal solidarity would actually have been in the foreground that it would constitute the common sense of most black folk that they would be at least at minimal skeptical at a minimal level skeptical of the moral capacity of y folk to treat them rightly. And that's not a kind of race's judgment that's reasonable intelligent intelligent conclusion right when you have folk who hold you as slaves who treat you as property who later treat you as second class citizens one could make a reasonable judgment to
question their more capacity and black folks did it. And also it served as a basis for imagining themselves in communion with other similarly situated selves. That is a basis for imagining a form of solidarity. So when we talk about the Exodus story offering black folk a language to imagine themselves as a national community you know it's pharaoh who first calls the Israelites a people is the treatment of Pharaoh. Of the you know it is his. Gyptian is oppression of the Israelites that results in the Israelites seeing themselves in interesting sorts of ways as a people. At the moment in which they enter into the covenant they then enter into a choice they make a choice to become self-determining agent irrespective of Pharaoh's gays. So it's this moment of oppression this moment in which we're all thrown into this kind of cauldron
of oppressive practices that enable me to say to my fellow your kitchen a similar kind of hell we ought to stand together. And it's that kind of initial moment that kind of baseline solidarity which is at the root of all black nationalist politics. And so but there's a there's another movie I want to make David R that I really want to and says What I'm trying to do is to say that black nationalist leader logs of today don't have a monopoly on solidarity talk. That's solidarity talk is at the root of black politics. You see it in King you see it in Garvey you see it is a Philip Randolph right in a variety of political orientations there's a kind of assumption that as black folk we must come together to speak to these practices to work to alleviate conditions of living so that we can pursue freedom in a way that's unfit and to pursue the possibility of flourishing and to guarantee our children a better life than now. So what I'm trying to do
by making the claim that solidarity talk which is the baseline of any nationalist politics right finds its most force one of its most forceful articulations within this kind of Christian this appropriation of this Christian narrative is to defuse right that talk throughout African-American politics says that only certain black nationalists can claim that they're the only ones who could talk about black solidarity so that annoys me. It really does because they're not the only one talking about it. We're almost at a mid point here and I need to introduce the guest and also one thing that we need to do because it's the first Tuesday of the month we're going to do this test of the emergency alert system so we'll do that and then we'll continue our conversation with Eddie Glaude this is a test of the Emergency Alert System. It's only a test.
We have the emergency alert system. This system was developed to provide information to the public during emergency. And this is AM 580 W while Urbana focus 580 is this program our morning talk show my name's David Ensor. And joining us this morning from Princeton University is Eddie Glaude He's associate professor in the department of religion at Princeton and has written a lot about African-American religious history and its place in American public life. That certainly is the focus of his book Exodus religion race and nation in early 19th century black America published by University of Chicago Press in 2000. As I say he's talking with us from where he is in Princeton but he's going to be on the campus of the University of Illinois next week on September 16th that would be the Friday to take part in a conference sponsored in part by the African-American studies and research program the African American cultural program the career center in the School of Business.
So that's going on next weekend. We were not able to have him on the program when he was here physically in Champaign-Urbana but he was good enough to give us some of his time this way and we're glad to have this high quality connection here because indeed it may sound like he's here with me but he's he's in Princeton questions are welcome 3 3 3 9 4 5 5 4. Folks here in Champaign Urbana toll free 800 to 2 2 9 4 5 5. We do have a caller here. Someone listening here in Champaign County where we are so we'll bring them in. Going first to line number one. Good morning. Are you well I wasn't able to listen this closely as I'd like to extract it. Oh. I would like to know if you treated her if you could expand on if you're already touched upon the idea that Christianity was part of the ideology of oppression. The story that was being told was to explain the situation of African-Americans and and the sick on this continent and that
by taking that the message sort of you know retelling it breaking away from the standard lore that I was wondering whether you you looked into first the kind of things that were being said to keep people down. And how how you treated those you know paradigm shift or whatever you'd like to call it. And I'll hang up and listen thanks. OK. I think that's a wonderful question I mean it's it's a long standing question about whether or not Christianity. And after American conversion to it just simply solidified their oppression. Right that is to say just one to one just a tory tool among many for the institution of slavery. But there's an interesting dimension to at least. The form of Christianity that the majority of African-Americans embrace and it has something to do with the importance of the conversion experience right when we think about majority of African-Americans converted to Christianity
slaves at least during the second great awakenings and here we have an emphasis on the kind of personal experience of God. So the conversion experience it had something to do with one feeling the kind of intimate relation one feeling of intimate relation with God. And there's a sense in which the slave master who or the or those who are in power who were proselytizing among the slaves had to make a choice in some significant Why do we want the slaves to be mere parrots. The tradition just simply being able to cite certain kinds of verses to participate in certain kinds of liturgies or whatnot. Or do we want them to truly understand the faith and the moment in which we begin to see that the conversion experience combined with this effort to understand truly what Christianity involves then African-Americans were able to kind of make it their own right. These folk didn't come to the United States. With no
resources with no interpretive abilities. So basically what we see at least according to rob my colleague Robert two in his book slave religion is that African-Americans forced Christianity into something distinctive. So African-American Christianity and the adjective African-American actually matters. There's a wonderful quotation by the theologian Howard Thurman that the slave dared to redeem the religion profaned in its midst right and it did so and she did so by really reinterpreting it in light of his or her own condition. So even though Christianity was certainly used to justify slavery. We cannot assume that those slaves who embraced Christianity and simply did so because you know they were autumn atonce know they actually embraced it and made it something different and specific to their condition.
That's a long winded answer but I hope I got an arrogant lets talk with the next person this is someone in Champaign and its line number two. Good morning. First of all congratulations I think and particularly timely topic in my opinion I think the I don't humanitarian crisis on the Gulf Coast is not intelligible if one goes into the colonial relation and one starts to see the contradiction. But what specifically I want to. You'll get an even analysis of the institution of slavery and maybe I'm pointing to the make up of old already just not on race and class but clearly that was not a uniform institution and it was differentiated with how slaves and plantation slaves and so forth. So he's commenting on the issue of black nationalism I wonder if you could speak a bit more on that Genesis and its limits in the elation to the idea
of slaving away as a way of production you know to buy the sometimes a bit a certain class so I hang up and I hope I create enough for him to talk specifically about you know the institution of slavery as including both racial and economic or class contradictions. Thank you very much. Right. Well can you talk to. Well I think that it's certainly what I what I'm particularly talking about when I talk about this with the appropriation of the religious stories is to kind of talk about the ways in which. These slaves drew on languages to forge itself in the midst of a certain economic relation aimed at producing extraordinary excess capital right. I mean there's a sense in which we cannot kind of fall into the trap of either or thinking whether that was fundamentally a racial racialized racialized slavery or whether it was principally economically driven it was obviously a combination of both. Part of what we need to see is that
as black women's wombs were sites for capital accumulation as black folks labor became sources for building this great and fragile experiment in democracy ironically. We see that the discourse of race played a crucial role in justifying their subordination and what we find in the appropriation of these stories right. Is is in some ways inattentiveness to that language to that justification to that ideology of race aimed at justifying the continued subordination and exploitation of black folk. So we don't want to lose sight of the important economic dimensions of the institution of slavery and its aftermath I mean in fact I want to make the claim that it's central. But I also want to make the claim that race over determines this experience. It's one thing to be poor in the United States and here I'm going to be a little bit anachronistic
and really I have courage. The New Orleans situation and mine and the Gulf Coast situation it's one thing to just be poor but it's another thing to be black and poor in this country. And race to such an extent as Stuart Hall would argue over determines class in the United States class is the most validated through which let me say it differently. Race is the Model-T through which class is experienced in the United States and is precisely being attuned to that complex interrelationship interpenetration that leads me to give some attention to that all of my attention to the various ways African-Americans have responded to the history of racial exploitation in the United States. It's sometimes it's the singular preoccupation of the black nationalists of certain sort that leads them to downplay the economic dimensions to overemphasize the racial dimension that gets them into certain kinds of trouble. But we know that they're a black nationalist tradition it's much more complicated than just simply cultural nationalist who are just simply paying attention to
cultural or racial issues that you have left nationalists that are really interested in the complex relationship between race and imperialism and capitalism. That's a long winded answer again sorry. That's on this program that we like for thorough and thoughtful answers I would never say something like longwinded No only we like you know we like that we like they very much we can we have the luxury of having the time to be able to give and give to guests. I wouldn't apologize. Let's talk with someone here in Chicago next in line for. Hello. You brought up so many things and I just I didn't initially want to seek about this but the last comment that you made about race over determining class. I'm beginning to think it's a question of care because of the fact that it is race over determining class and so maybe you could speak about that. But the reason why I called was that the
question about conversion to Christianity. It seems to me that because of the fact that one way or the master's quote unquote thought that they were controlling the slaves was by condemning them to illiteracy. It's almost inevitable that a Christian term analogy would be the expression of any type of African American movement because that was the only literature in English that they had access to. And you know now days most Christians talk about salvation history but it seems to me those early slaves understood immediately that the Bible was about salvation history. And when you look at the negro spirituals it seems that they were making an analysis about their situation in that new common language English using the only literature or analogies that they could make which was the Bible story.
That I think is an excellent point it's certainly the case that when we look at the context it makes absolute sense that they would. Christianity would be the principal religious choice made it certainly makes sense. I think you're also right I mean I know folk like Stanley Hauerwas need to hear your comment about the importance of these early black Christians write many of these New York the dock's Christian folk looking towards looking to the early Christians to articulate some authentic conception of Christianity often look past those black slaves who suffered and died who martyrs who were martyred in the name of Christ. They look past him as exemplars of the kind of Christian faith that they're putting forth. So I think you're absolutely right in that regard. There is something distinct and unique about the sound of Christianity that comes out. Of of American slavery there's something this a path thoughts that that speaks of the cross that is profound
important for any Christian who really seeks to understand a particular dimension of the gospel. So I concur absolutely with your point. And I also want to say to your point about caste that you know Oliver Cox wrote a wonderful book Race casting class while back speaking to this issue. It is certainly the case that when we begin to look at how stratified American society is when we begin to see as Christophe talked about in his editorial today in The New York Times that a child in China has a better chance of living than a child in Washington D.C. We know that the United States has never in any interesting way demonstrated a concern for its poor it's rejected and is despised. And in so far as we've witnessed over the line not to get too political here but as we've witnessed over the last.
Few years the transfer of wealth from the have nots to the haves and we've witnessed just recently the kind of amazing insensitivity to poor people stuck with the marginal The Invisible were made visible swept into our site by winds of natural disaster that this country has a fundamental issue with regards to wealth disparity with regards to class contradictions visa via its own voice Democratic aims and ends and that goes all the way back to the founding. I always like to tell my students at Princeton that the serpent of slavery was wrapped around the legs of the table upon which the Declaration of Independence was signed that the United States has always struggled. With its articulation of its commitments to Democratic aims and ends and its simultaneous commitment to undemocratic practices we've never been in an ideal state where one has been around. If I can make one more comment. Sure.
I think it's interesting when the Holocaust museum was opened up someone made a comment that how unusual it is that we don't have a museum to slavery when that is so fundamental to the history of the United States and its economic success. And I think that goes back to we almost don't know ourselves. The only historian I know who's ever made an attempt and he was on the afternoon magazine not too long ago Gary Nash wrote that book. What was it red white and black. Absolutely. He's one of the only historian that I know and if you know more please mention them who try to integrate the history of the United States including the conquered the broad eons and every one and tried to make an understanding. And I think that not knowing ourselves it seems that we just keep bumbling into the same mistakes and not able really to
treat anything because we. Well I don't know what to call it. It's willful blindness I think. But I think the fundamental bottom line is that we don't know our own history because we refuse to integrate not just in a physical manner but we have refused to integrate intellectually. Well one of the interesting things about the Exodus story broadly understood is that America magine itself as a chosen nation as the shining city on the Hill. That particular religious imagining of America in some ways snatched it out of history in its own view. Right here is a place not built not we weren't beholden to a feudal past our perspective is primarily forward looking. We viewed ourselves as a shining city on the Hill as a beacon light to the rest of the world and part and parcel of that kind of under self-understanding. I believe what's inherent to that self-understanding is a kind of naive belief in our own innocence.
James Baldwin used to say is to damn innocence that gets on my nerves so much right. And as to perceived innocence that America is somehow because we believe ourselves to be the shining city on the Hill that we can't seem to come to terms with our inherent contradictions. Martin Luther King's to talk about racism as America's original sin. Right. But what we see is that it's not just simply racism it has everything to do with these undemocratic practices at the very heart of what it means to seek to be a democratic nation. And until we tell ourselves a better story a story about ourselves that includes our shortcomings off faults right our limitations that which constrains our aims and desires to be a truly democratic nation we will always be subject to right elites robbing the coffers of the pup the public coffers in the name of security elites duping the American public in the name of their own efforts to kind of secure their own individual aims and ends
until we tell a broader story a better story. We will still we will continue to have such bad options when it comes to how we understand ourselves and our nation. Well thank you and thank you Mr. Kenge for once again just having an excellent join you and I'm glad you think so. Ten minutes left in this part of focus 580 and I should introduce Again our guest Eddie Glaude He's a professor in the department of religion at Princeton has written a lot about African-American religious history and its place in American public life. And if you're interested in looking at this in some greater depth you might look for his book Exodus religion race and nation in early 19th century black America published by the University of Chicago breast came out in 2000. We have someone else here back here locally in Champaign Urbana an urban one number one. Right now I don't how are you today in reference to a degree in this country it's usually a racial component and it has become an economic component for you know alienating or repressing people that way but in the historical sense
when the Europeans first came to the Americas there in Catholicism I think there was a larger argument as to whether the indigenous people had you know souls or not. And then they sort of solved that and I'm quite sure they debated that issue too when they brought slaves over from Africa. But when you were speaking of how people in the early I would say in the 17th century 18th century when the slaves were these churches were developed as you said the church before the family. Now my recollection of reading American history was that slaves were not it was illegal I don't with an 18th century or early 19th century were it is illegal to teach slaves to read so where were they then. How these stories pretty or old man for the most part many of them were or you know Well good I'm sorry. I want to interject another thing because that in a sense places it in the context of Catholicism prior to Protestantism before the vernacular you know text in the Bible. So in a sense you could sort of do a parallel there but. I just want to know what
your opinion on that was. Well I mean one of the things that we see really when we look at the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels and their attempt to try to proselytize them honestly. They had a very difficult time right. Yeah. Oh yeah really because of the difficulty with regards to literacy and with regards to the ability of the slaves to speak English. And so the idea of introducing the slave to you know teaching them the catechism right you know kind of taking the steps my steps are taken in order for them to be baptized just simply was not attractive for many of the slaves and in fact what they found was that many of the slaves were just simply being duplicitous in the early stages that they just simply ascended to Christianity with the idea that it would somehow result in better treatment. Yeah I think I'd agree with that. In some places too we find that it was so pervasive that this is at this moment I mean this shows you how how strange the moment was and in some ways still is. Slaves are being baptized and the priest
or the preacher would actually ask the slave where that he or she was being baptized because they want better treatment or that they truly believed in Christ. Yeah I thought it was just actually hot. Yeah no way though I mean you can understand their position in that you know you better treatment and you didn't starve or you weren't beaten but I think that's actually a really interesting part of your or your thesis because how these people became Christians. You know the theory is that when you're even when as now you will go to church now when you're not a Christian you become a Christian you have to you know actually accept the believe or whatever in the nature of Jesus and all this stuff. But in a way I get that's interesting because it comes down to the individual back then which is lost in history because how do you I mean these people didn't write their story was never written except for people like you who sort of gather you know the sort of historical evidence that you can to distract from that evidence. You know certain behaviors. But up completely sort of on this subject but off the subject the woman before was talking about
how there was not a museum to slavery. And one of the callus efforts in this country to sort of define that was Walt Disney Company. Think years ago wanted to build and had to Belem theme park and have slaves in it I don't know if you remember that or not you're not an East Coast. There's a huge argument about that and there was you know these professors of religion and professors of history like you who signed you know declarations that this is like unbelievably insulting to these people. There is you know we have little you know people not in a historical sense but in a in a in a you know what a theme park and so we have slaves they're going to have all that they want to use that dialect of this and I just I just want to throw that out of sort of that the way Americans think about slavery or don't think about fleeing have seen it that is to me and to get if of the just sort of like to use a political statement that George Bush if occasion of this where you got this you know you've got these people they're like idiots that have some idea of history which is so malign from the reality of it. Of course they kill
the program but they're going to spend like a 3 billion dollars going to the park. I just want to throw that off for that woman in Chicago. I really appreciate your work. Thank thank you so I want to thank you so much. One thing that I would have liked to have you talk about but we back in the beginning the program we talked about you talked about the fact that the Exodus story was a very fundamental story that many different Americans had identified with and the fact that European Americans identified with the story because they they saw themselves as the Israel lights they saw the America as the promised land and that African Americans people who were brought here as slaves they didn't see America as the promised land they saw it is Egypt and they said it but again they saw themselves as the Israelites and that the ruler essentially the rulers were Pharaoh. And I'm interested in how in the how that kind of understanding that identification with the story was
reinterpreted in light of emancipation. Well you know one of the great things about the Exodus story is that is always subject to re-imagine any one of the beautiful things about. The Exodus story particularly as it circulates of the Jewish tradition as I understand it is that is constantly being retold. It has to be right. As I said people can relive it in interesting sorts of ways and so what we see is that in the retelling it's always re-imagine. And so we can see the promised land being reimagined the promised land you know being imagined as the north the promised land being reimagined as Cain and a Brahmin as Canada or the promised land being reimagined in a number of different spaces geographical locations. So post emancipation What did the Exodus story involve. Well it had something to do with securing education for a generation of children that had something to do with beginning to forge to reunite families beginning to forge a life outside of the restraints
of the plantation system it also had to do with understanding that Egypt is probably wherever you happen to be so even though slavery was destroyed we see sharecropping emerge. We see other forms of oppression we see Jim and Jane Crow beginning to take shape. We see the violence of extralegal. Extralegal violence with regards to the KKK as they tried to police a Southern society or Southern cultural mores that are under threat and in each of these instances. This story provided language right for these folk to imagine so much so that we even hear Dr. King in his last address. You know imagining himself as Moses he's been to the mountaintop and he's seeing the promised land and he wants to let us know that one day we will we will reach it. You see. So at this instance we see each generation given the particularities of their condition. Right. Drawing on the tropes of Exodus to imagine the possibility of being free.
And so it's an amazingly. It's an amazing story let's just put it out. The next caller we have is someone listening in Urbana. We'll talk with him there on line 1 right here in Pella. Good morning. I just didn't have time and I think there is a slave museum in Cincinnati you know it just opened a few months ago and didn't southern Illinois. There are some underground railroad homes that or stop that are available but I can't remember exactly where that is. Thank you. Yeah you know there's there's the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati that's amazing. We know that there have been some installations at the Smithsonian with the guard I think more so I took the color to be making a gym or a more general point not necessarily about the specific I mean we could talk about the specifics
but there's a sense in which has there ever been any kind of fundamental national. Recognition. Right. National recognition of this dimension of our past says that we're constantly reminded of it so that we don't fall into the kind of hubris that will lead us to viewers to view ourselves as somehow more moral and ethical than some other nation and I don't think we've ever done that. Let's try and I might be wrong. Maybe one more quickly here champagne line too. Hello I did a follow up question on the basis of cause hypos. I just want to be your guest. Excellent comment to comment on the usefulness of the idea of the black nation in relation to include cloth laid for them to think through if you like one of these that I can and so for excellent. So how useful the idea of knowing that we
imagining of this exodus story this idea of a black nation in trying to get through these into class contradictions with people you know like quantities that I tend to have local people in you know to be I'll hang up and fly. I think that's an excellent question I mean part of the work that the black that that the trope of the black nation part of the work it did was to allow us to mobilize communities of varied and swords to fight and to resist. And to struggle against oppression of various sorts becomes very difficult when we begin to see various class riffs you know not only classrooms we see rifts around sexuality. We see Christian can black Christian conservatives who are I think who are saying some very hateful things with regards to the questions of gay marriage. So we see these fissures defining black communities in interesting sorts of ways so that the appeal to notions of the black nation or the black community
requires a lot more work it can't do the kind of mobilizing work it used to. And this is part of our challenge today to re-imagine African-American politics in the light of the tremendous diversity that defines black communities today. Until we begin to wrap our minds around this we will always have trouble dealing with the fact that black folk are human beings. And if we're human beings that means we have a range of views ranging from conservative to progressive. We're human beings that mean we could do that to my mind. It means that we could be. We could do dastardly things or we could be as graceful and dignified and good as other any other human beings and once we realize this. Once we stop begging for freedom and asking people for freedom and just simply be free we can recognize that there is this vast diversity among black folk and then we could begin to articulate a politics that's reflective of the complexity of our own current moment. There will have to stop because we've come to the end of the time. Our guest Eddie Glaude is author of the book Exodus religion race and nation in early 19th century black America
- Producing Organization
- WILL Illinois Public Media
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- WILL Illinois Public Media (Urbana, Illinois)
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- Eddie Glaude, Jr., Associate Professor in the Department of Relgion at Princeton University
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- Civil Rights; Race/Ethnicity; Religion; African-Americans
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Producer: Brighton, Jack
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- Chicago: “Focus; Religion and African American Identity,” 2005-09-06, WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 10, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-610vq2sh97.
- MLA: “Focus; Religion and African American Identity.” 2005-09-06. WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 10, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-610vq2sh97>.
- APA: Focus; Religion and African American Identity. Boston, MA: WILL Illinois Public Media, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_16-610vq2sh97