Augsburg Fortress

Down, Up, and Over: Slave Religion and Black Theology

Down, Up, and Over: Slave Religion and Black Theology

Hopkins contends that the lives of enslaved African Americans were the foundational source of liberating faith and practice for African Americans today. Down, Up, and Over draws on their religious experience, and the example of their faith and witness, to develop a constructive theology of liberation.

"African American belief structures and hope practices blossom from the black folk's religious encounters with God," Hopkins contends. The first half of his ambitious work reconstructs the cultural matrix of African American religion—a total way of life formed by Protestantism, American culture, and the institution of slavery (1619–1865)—in which racial identities developed. Whites from Europe and blacks from Africa arrived with specific, differing views of God, faith, practice, and humanity. Hopkins recreates their worldviews and how white theology sought to remake African Americans into naturally inferior beings divinely ordained into subservience. The counter voice of enslaved blacks begets the Spirit of Liberation.

Tracking that Spirit, Hopkins crafts an explicit black theology of the Spirit of Liberation for us (God, chapter 4), with us (Jesus, chapter 5), and in us (human purpose, chapter 6). Out of the crucible of slavery emerges the lineaments of a constructive religious vision: the constitution of a new self and a divinely purposed "liberation toward full spiritual and material humanity."

Hopkins sweeping vision, impressive scholarship, and astute social analysis make for a fascinating and important volume, one that can help all readers find meaning and purpose in the daunting 350-year pilgrimage of African Americans.
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  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800627232
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 312
  • Publication Date November 29, 1999


"This major contribution develops a constructive black liberation theology from the narratives and history of enslaved African Americans.... The strength of Hopkins's analysis lies in his creative use of the sources of slave religion for his position on black theology. Discussion on the social construction of black selfhood is also important.... Highly recommended for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and specialists in the fields of religion, race, and history."
— L. H . Mamiya, Vassar College, May 2001

Table of Contents


    Historical Black Theology: Religious Formation of Race in American Culture

  1. Two Faces of Protestantism and American Culture

  2. From Sunup to Sundown—Slavemasters Constitute the African American Self

  3. From Sundown to Sunup: The African American Co-Constitutes the Black Self

    Contructs Black Theology: The Spirit of Liberation

  4. God—The Spirit of Total Liberation for Us

  5. Jesus—The Spirit of Total Liberation with Us

  6. Human Purpose—The Spirit of Total Liberation in Us