Fortress Press

Terror and Triumph: The Nature of Black Religion

Terror and Triumph

The Nature of Black Religion

Anthony B. Pinn (Author)


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Given the unique history of African Americans and its diverse religious flowering—in Black Christianity, the Nation of Islam, Voodoo, and others—is there one fundamental meaning to black religion in America? What is the heart and soul of African American religious life?

As a leader in both black religious studies and theology, Anthony Pinn has probed the dynamism and variety of African American religious expressions. In this work, which he also delivered as the Edward Cadbury Lectures at the University of Birmingham, England, he searches out the basic structure of black religion, tracing the black religious spirit in its many historical manifestations. Pinn finds in the terrors of enslavement of black bodies and subsequent oppressions the primal experience to which the black religious impulse provides a perennial and cumulative response. Oppressions entailed the denial of personhood and creation of an object: the negro. Slave auctions, punishments, and later, lynchings created an existential dread but also evoked a quest, a search, for complex subjectivity or authentic personhood that still fuels black religion today. Pinn's promising work offers a major new understanding of what it means to be black and religious in the United States.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800636012
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 290
  • Publication Date January 16, 2003


"An important contribution to the study of black religion."
—James H. Cone, Briggs Distinguished Professor of Theology,
Union Theological Seminary

"Terror and Triumph is an extraordinarily interesting account of the ways in which slavery operated, mainly in the southern states, together with a very thought-provoking new analysis of the nature and role of black religion within and in response to slavery."
—John Hick, Danforth Professor of the Philosophy of Religion (emeritus),
Claremont Graduate University, California, and author of A Christian Theology of Religions: The Rainbow of Faith and Evil and the God of Love

"The defining innovation in Anthony Pinn's Terror and Triumph is the perceptive way in which he reads enslaved Black bodies as religious texts. One can hardly overstate the value of Pinn's attention to cultural details and his excellent interpretation of interdisciplinary sources. Terror and Triumph is essential reading for all who want to understand better the terror of human cruelty and the triumph of embodied resiliency."
—Katie G. Cannon, Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Ethics,
Union Theological Seminary, Richmond

Table of Contents


  1. Introduction: "Look, a Negro!" How the 'New World' African Became an Object of History Part One—Constructing Terror
  2. How Much for a Young Buck? Slave Auctions and Identity
  3. Rope Neckties: Lynching and Identity Part Two—Waging War
  4. Houses of Prayer in a Hostile Land: Black Religion as a Response to Terror
  5. Covert Practices: Further Responses
  6. I'll Make Me a World: Black Religion as Historical Context Part Three—Seeking Triumph
  7. Crawling Backward: Toward a Theory of Black Religion's Center
  8. Finding the Center: Methodological Issues Considered