The Black Church

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Black Church TV Poster Image
Brilliant docu reveals role of the Black church in America.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

It shows how the Black church as a driving force in achieving social justice for the Black community.  The tenets of Christianity, as practiced by the Black church, are often referenced. Sexism, classism, and abuse within the church, and the divisions created by these issues, are also discussed. 

Positive Role Models

The series briefly profiles many of the major religious and spiritual leaders from the Black church, and highlights the different ways they served their communities. The majority of leaders in the Black church are men, but some of the prominent women in church history are also highlighted. 

Violence

Slavery, abuse, civil rights violations, political violence, and murder are discussed. Some archive footage features disturbing images of violent behaviors.  

Sex
Language

There isn't any cursing, but racist language is presented in context. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There are brief references to drinking, smoking, and doing drugs. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Black Church is a documentary series that looks at the unique and historic role Black churches have played in the African American community since the times of slavery. There are archival images of violent, racist acts committed throughout U.S. history, and discussions about sexism, abuse, and other social issues and injustice. Some of the many important leaders in the Black religious community are profiled, including those who guided the Black church into political activism. 

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Teen, 15 years old Written byDogcat February 21, 2021

How is this 5 stars?

I would give this 0 stars if I could! God doesn’t want black and amp; white churches. He wants everyone to go to church regardless of your race! This is so tra... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE BLACK CHURCH: THIS IS OUR STORY, THIS IS OUR SONG is a four-part documentary about the 400 year old history of the collective of U.S. Christian congregations and denominations that minister primarily to African-American communities. Host Henry Louis Gates, Jr., along with church leaders, scholars, and activists like Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce, Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, and Rev. Al Sharpton, explain how the church has evolved from the early efforts of Black people to adapt Christianity to faith-based traditions that were brought from enslaved Africans, to a site where new secular musical genres are created, and powerful social activism is practiced. These voices, along with archive photographs and news footage, reveal how the church has sustained the Black community for centuries.  It also raises questions about how it will continue to provide congregants with the space to worship, commune, and socialize in ways that reflect their collective lived experiences. 

Is it any good?

This compelling series offers fascinating details about the history of the Black Church, deemed by many as the most consequential institution in the Black community. It reveals how early African-American reinterpretations of Christianity, and their improvised ways of practicing it, served as ways to find solace and hope on their terms. It highlights the connections between different African faith-traditions, including music and dance, and its influence on the Black church throughout history. How early invisble worship spaces and plantation praise houses laid the foundation for established Southern churches, and how those churches differed from those in the North. The documentary also shows how the Black church emerged as a powerful leader in the fight for civil rights and social justice, and reveals how the U.S. Reconstruction-era rise of Black "preacher politicians" inspired the faith-based social and political activism of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rev. Jesse Jackson

The Black Church celebrates the institution's rich and empowering history. But also raises questions about its ability and willingness to change some of its practices, and modernize its messages about sexism, abuse, and homophobia. It also suggests that the Black church's absence from more recent secular protests, including Black Lives Matter, is a sign that it is struggling to find its place in contemporary Black activism. While some may not agree with these assessments, raising these questions is a call to the Black church to collectively think about how it will serve a new generations of members if it wants to continue playing a positive and meaningful role in their lives. Regardless, it impossible to come away from this series without a better understanding of the critical role the Black church, as an overall institution, has played througout the Black history, and how significant it remains Black culture. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact the Black church has had on the Black community in the United States. How has it impacted the overall country? Where does the power of the Black church to initiate and fight for social and political change come from? 

  • What potential role will the Black church play in the lives of future generations of Black Americans? How different will it be from the role it has historically played in the community? In what ways does The Black Church address this?

  • Did you know that singing superstars like Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, John Legend, and Jennifer Hudson got their start in the Black church? How did they transition from singing as a form of worship to becoming pop culture legends? 

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