Educational resources for:

Religion and Spiritual Life


Religious communities provided a powerful element of continuity and stability in the African-American experience. These ABJ shows examine the ongoing faith of African-American denominations at the same time that Islam became a controversial and increasingly attractive alternative for black youth.

Featured Show Clips & Comprehension Questions

Related Videos

Baba Ishangi discusses African culture

Excerpts from an October 12, 1990 speech by Louis Farrakhan in Detroit

Katherine Blackwell talks with students and the host about her work

Keith Staten sings with Witness as backup vocalists, then discusses his own career

Louis Farrakhan discusses media misrepresentation

Minister Rasul Muhammad describes the efforts of the Nation of Islam is taking to establish programs in Detroit

Opening Tribute to Rev. Franklin

The group Witness sings a number and then discusses how the group got together

Thematic Questions

What connections do you see between the presentations on the Afrocentric Education program and the Holiday Show?

How do these featured programs reflect concerns with spiritual values?

What do these programs tell you about the range of spiritual expression within the African American community?


FBI Record of Elijah Muhammad
A .pdf document of the FBI's 1973 investigative report on Elijah Muhammad, former leader of the Nation of Islam. The FBI's FOIA Electronic Reading Room index contains information on numerous subjects and individuals of interest.

Malcolm X Project at Columbia University
A multimedia web-based version of The Autobiography of Malcolm X coupled with related biographical research. The extremely comprehensive section, "The Life of Malcolm X" provides recommended readings as well as video interviews with scholars.

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly
The online partner to the PBS weekly program of the same name. The keyword search allows for research into past programs on numerous topics, including those of African and African American religion and related interests.

Speak to My Heart: Communities of Faith and Contemporary African American Life
Virtual exhibit from the Smithsonian Institution's Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture. It covers the "faith and spiritual traditions in the African American community." While the exhibit's emphasis is on Christianity, it does include Islam, Black Hebrew and African based religions.

The Church in the Southern Black Community
A Documenting the American South digital collection. It examines the way in which "Southern African Americans experienced and transformed Protestant Christianity into the central institution of community life." The collection contains autobiographies, biographies, sermons, church histories and other materials.

This Far By Faith
The companion site to the PBS documentary of African-American spiritual journeys.

Related Films

This Far By Faith: Inheritors of the Faith.
VHS/DVD. 360 Minutes.
San Francisco, California: Independent Television Service, 2003.
A documentary series exploring 300 years of the African-American religious experience, beginning with the arrival of African slaves into the twenty-first century.

Let the Church Say Amen.
DVD. 87 minutes.
Directed by David Petersen. New York: Film Movement, 2004.
A documentary following the lives of four parishioners of the World Missions for Christ store-front church in Washington, D.C. Examines how these individuals look to the church for both guidance as well as a source of strength.

The Spirituals.
DVD. 27 minutes.
Directed by Ari Palos. San Francisco, California: Independent Television Service, 2007.
An examination of the musical artform of the American Spiritual from its origins as slave folk song to its influence the world over. Features the American Spiritual Ensemble.


Andrews, William L. Sisters of the Spirit: Three Black Women’s Autobiographies of the Nineteenth Century. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.
A collection of spiritual autobiographies of Christian Gospel female preachers from 1836 to 1879. The authors discuss their trying childhoods, religious conversion, and dedication to evangelization regardless of color. These works are significant readings of feminist and racial religious radicalism.

Billingsley, Andrew. Mighty Like A River: The Black Church and Social Reform. New York:Oxford University Press, 1999.
An examination of black churches’ influence in the African American community from the antebellum period and its fight to end slavery to the modern church’s pursuit of social and economic justice.

Chireau, Yvonne and Nathaniel Deutsch. Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters With Judaism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.
A collection of essays by journalists and scholars broken into three parts: African American Jews and Israelites; African American Muslims and Judaism; and, African American Christianity and Judaism.

Dannin, Robert. Black Pilgrimage to Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
A “comprehensive ethnographic study of African-American Muslims.” This work demonstrates the complexity and multiplicity of African-American Muslims in the United States.

Williams, Juan. This Far By Faith: Stories from the African American Religious Experience. New York: W. Morrow, 2003.
The companion book to the six-part documentary series exploring 300 years of the African-American religious experience, beginning with the arrival of African slaves into the twenty-first century.