It is my great honor and privilege to introduce readers of this blog to a new book by Professor Jeroen DeWulf titled “Afro-Atlantic Catholics America’s First Black Christians.” The book will be out in early August. The book is long needed to provide a holistic view of the influence of African Catholics on the historical development of Black Christianity in America during the seventeenth century.
The publisher is the University of Notre Dame Press. The description reads, “Black Christianity in America has long been studied as a blend of indigenous African and Protestant elements. Jeroen Dewulf redirects the conversation by focusing on the enduring legacy of seventeenth-century Afro-Atlantic Catholics in the broader history of African American Christianity. With homelands in parts of Africa with historically strong Portuguese influence, such as the Cape Verde Islands, São Tomé, and Kongo, these Africans embraced variants of early modern Portuguese Catholicism that they would take with them to the Americas as part of the forced migration that was the transatlantic slave trade. Their impact on the development of Black religious, social, and political activity in North America would be felt from the southern states as far north as what would become New York.
Dewulf’s analysis focuses on the historical documentation of Afro-Atlantic Catholic rituals, devotions, and social structures. Of particular importance are brotherhood practices, which were critical in disseminating Afro-Atlantic Catholic culture among Black communities, a pre-Tridentine culture and wary of external influences. These fraternal Black mutual-aid and burial society structures were critically important to the development and resilience of Black Christianity in America through periods of changing social conditions. Afro-Atlantic Catholics show how a sizable minority of enslaved Africans actively transformed the American Christian landscape and would lay a distinctly Afro-Catholic foundation for African American religious traditions today. This book will appeal to scholars in the history of Christianity, African American and African diaspora studies, and Iberian studies.”
Professor Dewulf’s groundbreaking research on how one can reflect on early issues surrounding the conceptualization of diversity, faith, race, and belonging in the context of our continent today while not straying away from in-depth historiographical narrative serves as an archive of memory narrative.