This far by faith : Stories from the African American religious experience
Williams, Juan. (Yes, that Juan Williams)
Summary (Booklist Review):
Williams, who wrote the companion volume to the award-winning PBS documentary Eyes on the Prize, and Dixie, an Indiana University professor, offer a well-illustrated companion volume to the upcoming PBS series “This Far by Faith.” They follow the traditional contours of other studies of African-American religious history, beginning with slavery and following the tale through the emergence of free black churches; the nadir of the late 19th century; the Great Migration; the rise of black nationalism and urban religious traditions in the early 20th century; the civil rights movement; and the embrace of alternative religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and the Five Percenters in the 1970s through the 1990s.
It was hard for me to give this book a fair shake. It really was after my own heart, the sepia toned cover art, the business card tucked inside (A vestige from a previous reader; it was a funeral home business card. Fodder for a an imagination yearning to run wild!) But I just couldn’t shake the irritation I felt toward that Juan Williams.
The book is extremely well written. It includes accounts from and about noted church leaders Richard Allen and Martin Luther King and lesser known but equally dynamic leaders, Reverend Albert B. Cleage (founder of The Shrine of the Black Madonna) and Absalom Jones (founder of the African Episcopal Church of St.Thomas).
I was going to say “conversely” it discusses the leadership of Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammad but the tone of the book (mostly) suggests that there was a commonality among all of the teachings be they rooted in Christianity or Islam, and that was a message of empowerment. As the title of the book states, a strong—unshakeable even in the darkest hours—faith is to be credited for allowing an oppressed people to come ‘this far”.
All of those beautiful sentiments kept feeling like a moot point when viewed beside the authors statement (made some years after the release of this book) that “when [he] get[s] on the plane… if [he] see[s] people who are in Muslim garb [he] think[s]…they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, [he] get[s] worried. [He] get[s] nervous.”
The book included a very involved chapter on Ibrahima Abdul Rahman “The Prince” in which Juan discusses the obstacles that Ibrahima faced as a Muslim Minority on a Christian plantation. He’s has intimate knowledge of the goodness and decency of Ibrahima which he eloquently discussed. Williams also authored ‘Eyes on the Prize’, the prize being freedom and equality. Does Ibrahima and his ilk—Muslims—not deserve the same prize?