In an HNN.us commentary, “God Damn America” in Black and White, Penn Press author and historian Edward J. Blum places the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s controversial oratory in the historical context of African American religious speech.
What is striking, historically, is that there is nothing new in Wright’s sermon and how often African American perspectives on so-called American Christian nationalism are ignored. It seems that each year, at least a handful of books come out trying to discern whether the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Most recently, this can be seen in Steven Waldman’s Liberating the Founders. But so often historians have approached the topic from the perspective of elite whites and not the people who were building the nation from its foundation, hoeing the fields and raising the cotton, washing the clothes and preparing the meals (one exception to this is David Howard-Pitney’s wonderful The African-American Jeremiad). If we look closely at African American perspectives of Christian nationalism, we find the Reverend Wright firmly in a long oppositional and rhetorical tradition.
Edward J. Blum is a professor of history at San Diego State University and is the author of W. E. B. Du Bois, American Prophet and Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898.
Read the essay in its entirety on History News Network.