PBS: THE BLACK CHURCH: THIS IS OUR STORY, THIS IS OUR SONG “Part One” Hour One
(Broadcast Premiere: 2/16/2021)
By Valerie Milano
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 2/5/21 – Starting way back when with Ken Burn’s Civil War, PBS has flag shipped the epic multi-part documentary form. This tradition continues with The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song.
Part One-Hour One harnesses the full power of visual media as a teaching tool to summon forth the pathos that is American History; and there is no better lens to view the squalling, blood splattering birth of our nation than through the evolution of the Black Church. Black American religion begins as a hybridized amalgam of Islam, African idolatry and redacted Christian dogma; purposed first as a soothing balm to help a suffering culture crawl from one day to the next. Eventually, it evolves into the internal combustion engine of the First Great Awakening, Abolition, and (eventually) the modern Civil Rights movement.
Night One of The Black Church… focuses on the uneasy push and pull between white Christianity and the emergent spirituality of Slave culture. White politicians feared and resisted the idea of converting the slave population to Christianity while the Evangelical Christian community enthusiastically embraced the idea of notching mass quantities of fresh souls for the lord.
The producers of The Black Church… artfully mix illustrations, live location settings, and interview segments with preachers and academics into a multi-media history lesson.
The main takeaway (besides the rich legacy of music, oratory, and dance) is how the Bible’s narrative spoke directly to an oppressed people seeking salvation and migration to the promised land (the story of Exodus). Not to mention black culture’s affinity with the suffering of Jesus; an innocent unjustly whipped, tormented, and killed by an intolerant evil empire that (coincidentally) had a similar penchant for slavery.
The Black Church: This is Our Story, This Is Our Song masterfully reveals the depth and strength of black Christianity and the culture of art and political activism it spawned. It also reveals the roots and through-lines of institutional racism and white supremacy; twin evils that continue to haunt America in perpetuity.