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date: 20 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

“Who is Jesus, and what does it mean to name him the Christ?” is a fundamental question in Christianity that has echoed down through the centuries. White Christians interpreted Christianity as God’s ordination of the slaves’ inferior and less than human status, a view that was rejected by the slaves themselves. Martin Luther King Jr. saw Christianity and, therefore, Jesus Christ as radically present in the struggle for the civil rights of African Americans. The clash between the theology of the civil rights movement and the political/sociological critique of the Black Power movement gave rise to a fully articulated black Christology as part of a slowly developing black liberation theology. Several individuals played critical roles in this evolution, including James H. Cone, Gayraud Wilmore, Albert Cleage, and J. DeOtis Roberts. Kelly Brown Douglas traced the history of black Christology through slavery and the black church and identified a “spirituality of resistance” that permeated the lives of black women. New generations of black and womanist theologians continue to tackle the question of who Jesus is for twenty-first-century African Americans.

Keywords: Christianity, slaves, Jesus Christ, civil rights, African Americans, Christology, liberation theology, James H. Cone, slavery, black women

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