African American Culture Today Essay Format

African-American culture, also known as Black-American culture, refers to the cultural contributions of African Americans to the culture of the United States, either as part of or distinct from mainstream American culture. The distinct identity of African-American culture is rooted in the historical experience of the African-American people, including the Middle Passage. The culture is both distinct and enormously influential on American culture as a whole.

African-American culture is primarily rooted in West and Central Africa. Understanding its identity within the culture of the United States it is, in the anthropological sense, conscious of its origins as largely a blend of West and Central African cultures. Although slavery greatly restricted the ability of African-Americans to practice their original cultural traditions, many practices, values and beliefs survived, and over time have modified and/or blended with European cultures and other cultures such as that of Native Americans. African-American identity was established during the slavery period, producing a dynamic culture that has had and continues to have a profound impact on American culture as a whole, as well as that of the broader world.[1]

Elaborate rituals and ceremonies were a significant part of African Americans' ancestral culture. Many West African societies traditionally believed that spirits dwelled in their surrounding nature. From this disposition, they treated their environment with mindful care. They also generally believed that a spiritual life source existed after death, and that ancestors in this spiritual realm could then mediate between the supreme creator and the living. Honor and prayer was displayed to these "ancient ones", the spirit of those past. West Africans also believed in spiritual possession.[2]

In the beginning of the eighteenth century, Christianity began to spread across North Africa; this shift in religion began displacing traditional African spiritual practices. The enslaved Africans brought this complex religious dynamic within their culture to America. This fusion of traditional African beliefs with Christianity provided a common place for those practicing religion in Africa and America.[2]

After emancipation, unique African-American traditions continued to flourish, as distinctive traditions or radical innovations in music, art, literature, religion, cuisine, and other fields. 20th-century sociologists, such as Gunnar Myrdal, believed that African Americans had lost most of their cultural ties with Africa.[3] But, anthropological field research by Melville Herskovits and others demonstrated that there has been a continuum of African traditions among Africans of the diaspora.[4] The greatest influence of African cultural practices on European culture is found below the Mason-Dixon line in the American South.[5][6]

For many years African-American culture developed separately from European-American culture, both because of slavery and the persistence of racial discrimination in America, as well as African-American slave descendants' desire to create and maintain their own traditions. Today, African-American culture has become a significant part of American culture and yet, at the same time, remains a distinct cultural body.[7]

African-American cultural history[edit]

From the earliest days of American slavery in the 17th century, slave owners sought to exercise control over their slaves by attempting to strip them of their African culture. The physical isolation and societal marginalization of African slaves and, later, of their free progeny, however, facilitated the retention of significant elements of traditional culture among Africans in the New World generally, and in the U.S. in particular. Slave owners deliberately tried to repress independent political or cultural organization in order to deal with the many slave rebellions or acts of resistance that took place in the United States, Brazil, Haiti, and the Dutch Guyanas.[8]

African cultures, slavery, slave rebellions, and the civil rights movement have shaped African-American religious, familial, political, and economic behaviors. The imprint of Africa is evident in a myriad of ways: in politics, economics, language, music, hairstyles, fashion, dance, religion, cuisine, and worldview.

In turn, African-American culture has had a pervasive, transformative impact on many elements of mainstream American culture. This process of mutual creative exchange is called creolization.[7] Over time, the culture of African slaves and their descendants has been ubiquitous in its impact on not only the dominant American culture, but on world culture as well.[9]

Oral tradition[edit]

Slaveholders limited or prohibited education of enslaved African Americans because they feared it might empower their chattel and inspire or enable emancipatory ambitions. In the United States, the legislation that denied slaves formal education likely contributed to their maintaining a strong oral tradition, a common feature of indigenous African cultures.[10] African-based oral traditions became the primary means of preserving history, mores, and other cultural information among the people. This was consistent with the griot practices of oral history in many African and other cultures that did not rely on the written word. Many of these cultural elements have been passed from generation to generation through storytelling. The folktales provided African Americans the opportunity to inspire and educate one another.[10]

Examples of African-American folktales include trickster tales of Br'er Rabbit[11] and heroic tales such as that of John Henry.[12] The Uncle Remus stories by Joel Chandler Harris helped to bring African-American folk tales into mainstream adoption.[13] Harris did not appreciate the complexity of the stories nor their potential for a lasting impact on society.[14] Other narratives that appear as important, recurring motifs in African-American culture are the "Signifying Monkey", "The Ballad of Shine", and the legend of Stagger Lee.

The legacy of the African-American oral tradition manifests in diverse forms. African-American preachers tend to perform rather than simply speak. The emotion of the subject is carried through the speaker's tone, volume, and cadence, which tend to mirror the rising action, climax, and descending action of the sermon. Often song, dance, verse, and structured pauses are placed throughout the sermon. Call and response is another pervasive element of the African-American oral tradition. It manifests in worship in what is commonly referred to as the "amen corner". In direct contrast to recent tradition in other American and Western cultures, it is an acceptable and common audience reaction to interrupt and affirm the speaker.[15] This pattern of interaction is also in evidence in music, particularly in blues and jazz forms. Hyperbolic and provocative, even incendiary, rhetoric is another aspect of African-American oral tradition often evident in the pulpit in a tradition sometimes referred to as "prophetic speech".[16]

Modernity and migration of black communities to the North has had a history of placing strain on the retention of black cultural practices and traditions. The urban and radically different spaces in which black culture was being produced raised fears in anthropologists and sociologists that the southern black folk aspect of black popular culture were at risk of being lost in history. The study over the fear of losing black popular cultural roots from the South have a topic of interest to many anthropologists, who among them include Zora Neale Hurston. Through her extensive studies of Southern folklore and cultural practices, Hurston has claimed that the popular Southern folklore traditions and practices are not dying off. Instead they are evolving, developing, and re-creating themselves in different regions.[17]

Other aspects of African-American oral tradition include the dozens, signifying, trash talk, rhyming, semantic inversion and word play, many of which have found their way into mainstream American popular culture and become international phenomena.[18]

Spoken word artistry is another example of how the African-American oral tradition has influenced modern popular culture. Spoken word artists employ the same techniques as African-American preachers including movement, rhythm, and audience participation.[19]Rap music from the 1980s and beyond has been seen as an extension of oral culture.[10]

Harlem Renaissance[edit]

Main article: Harlem Renaissance

The first major public recognition of African-American culture occurred during the Harlem Renaissance pioneered by Alain Locke. In the 1920s and 1930s, African-American music, literature, and art gained wide notice. Authors such as Zora Neale Hurston and Nella Larsen and poets such as Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and Countee Cullen wrote works describing the African-American experience. Jazz, swing, blues and other musical forms entered American popular music. African-American artists such as William H. Johnson and Palmer Hayden created unique works of art featuring African Americans.[18]

The Harlem Renaissance was also a time of increased political involvement for African Americans. Among the notable African-American political movements founded in the early 20th century are the United Negro Improvement Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The Nation of Islam, a notable quasi-Islamic religious movement, also began in the early 1930s.[20]

African-American cultural movement[edit]

See also: Black Power and Black Arts Movement

The Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s followed in the wake of the non-violentCivil Rights Movement. The movement promoted racial pride and ethnic cohesion in contrast to the focus on integration of the Civil Rights Movement, and adopted a more militant posture in the face of racism.[21] It also inspired a new renaissance in African-American literary and artistic expression generally referred to as the African-American or "Black Arts Movement".

The works of popular recording artists such as Nina Simone ("Young, Gifted and Black") and The Impressions ("Keep On Pushing"), as well as the poetry, fine arts, and literature of the time, shaped and reflected the growing racial and political consciousness.[22] Among the most prominent writers of the African-American Arts Movement were poet Nikki Giovanni;[23] poet and publisher Don L. Lee, who later became known as Haki Madhubuti; poet and playwright Leroi Jones, later known as Amiri Baraka; and Sonia Sanchez. Other influential writers were Ed Bullins, Dudley Randall, Mari Evans, June Jordan, Larry Neal, and Ahmos Zu-Bolton.

Another major aspect of the African-American Arts Movement was the infusion of the African aesthetic, a return to a collective cultural sensibility and ethnic pride that was much in evidence during the Harlem Renaissance and in the celebration of Négritude among the artistic and literary circles in the U.S., Caribbean, and the African continent nearly four decades earlier: the idea that "black is beautiful". During this time, there was a resurgence of interest in, and an embrace of, elements of African culture within African-American culture that had been suppressed or devalued to conform to Eurocentric America. Natural hairstyles, such as the afro, and African clothing, such as the dashiki, gained popularity. More importantly, the African-American aesthetic encouraged personal pride and political awareness among African Americans.[24]


Main article: African-American music

African-American music is rooted in the typically polyrhythmic music of the ethnic groups of Africa, specifically those in the Western, Sahelean, and Sub-Saharan regions. African oral traditions, nurtured in slavery, encouraged the use of music to pass on history, teach lessons, ease suffering, and relay messages. The African pedigree of African-American music is evident in some common elements: call and response, syncopation, percussion, improvisation, swung notes, blue notes, the use of falsetto, melisma, and complex multi-part harmony.[10] During slavery, Africans in America blended traditional European hymns with African elements to create spirituals.[25]

Many African Americans sing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in addition to the American national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner", or in lieu of it. Written by James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson in 1900 to be performed for the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the song was, and continues to be, a popular way for African Americans to recall past struggles and express ethnic solidarity, faith, and hope for the future.[26] The song was adopted as the "Negro National Anthem" by the NAACP in 1919.[27] Many African-American children are taught the song at school, church or by their families. "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" traditionally is sung immediately following, or instead of, "The Star-Spangled Banner" at events hosted by African-American churches, schools, and other organizations.[28]

In the 19th century, as the result of the blackfaceminstrel show, African-American music entered mainstream American society. By the early 20th century, several musical forms with origins in the African-American community had transformed American popular music. Aided by the technological innovations of radio and phonograph records, ragtime, jazz, blues, and swing also became popular overseas, and the 1920s became known as the Jazz Age. The early 20th century also saw the creation of the first African-American Broadway shows, films such as King Vidor's Hallelujah!, and operas such as George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess.

Rock and roll, doo wop, soul, and R&B developed in the mid-20th century. These genres became very popular in white audiences and were influences for other genres such as surf. During the 1970s, the dozens, an urban African-American tradition of using rhyming slang to put down one's enemies (or friends), and the West Indian tradition of toasting developed into a new form of music. In the South Bronx the half speaking, half singing rhythmic street talk of "rapping" grew into the hugely successful cultural force known as hip hop.[29]


Hip Hop would become a multicultural movement, however, it still remained important to many African Americans. The African-American Cultural Movement of the 1960s and 1970s also fueled the growth of funk and later hip-hop forms such as rap, hip house, new jack swing, and go-go. House music was created in black communities in Chicago in the 1980s. African-American music has experienced far more widespread acceptance in American popular music in the 21st century than ever before. In addition to continuing to develop newer musical forms, modern artists have also started a rebirth of older genres in the form of genres such as neo soul and modern funk-inspired groups.[30]

In contemporary art, black subject matter has been used as raw material to portray the Black experience and aesthetics. The way Blacks' facial features were once conveyed as stereotypical in media and entertainment continues to be an influence within art. Dichotomies arise from artworks such as Open Casket by Dana Schutz based on the murder of Emmett Till to remove the painting and destroy it from the way Black pain is conveyed.[31] Meanwhile, Black artists such as Kerry James Marshall portrays the Black body as empowerment and Black invisibility.

The arts[edit]


Main article: African-American dance

African-American dance, like other aspects of African-American culture, finds its earliest roots in the dances of the hundreds of African ethnic groups that made up African slaves in the Americas as well as influences from European sources in the United States. Dance in the African tradition, and thus in the tradition of slaves, was a part of both everyday life and special occasions. Many of these traditions such as get down, ring shouts, and other elements of African body language survive as elements of modern dance.[32]

In the 19th century, African-American dance began to appear in minstrel shows. These shows often presented African Americans as caricatures for ridicule to large audiences. The first African-American dance to become popular with white dancers was the cakewalk in 1891.[33] Later dances to follow in this tradition include the Charleston, the Lindy Hop, the Jitterbug and the swing.[34]

During the Harlem Renaissance, African-American Broadway shows such as Shuffle Along helped to establish and legitimize African-American dancers. African-American dance forms such as tap, a combination of African and European influences, gained widespread popularity thanks to dancers such as Bill Robinson and were used by leading white choreographers, who often hired African-American dancers.[34]

Contemporary African-American dance is descended from these earlier forms and also draws influence from African and Caribbean dance forms. Groups such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater have continued to contribute to the growth of this form. Modern popular dance in America is also greatly influenced by African-American dance. American popular dance has also drawn many influences from African-American dance most notably in the hip-hop genre.[35]

One of the uniquely African American forms of dancing, turfing, emerged from social and political movements in the East Bay in the San Francisco Bay Area.[36] Turfing is a hood dance and a response to the loss of African American lives, police brutality, and race relations in Oakland, California.[37] The dance is an expression of Blackness, and one that integrates concepts of solidarity, social support, peace, and the discourse of the state of black people in our current social structures.[38][39][40]


Main article: African-American art

From its early origins in slave communities, through the end of the 20th century, African-American art has made a vital contribution to the art of the United States.[41] During the period between the 17th century and the early 19th century, art took the form of small drums, quilts, wrought-iron figures, and ceramic vessels in the southern United States. These artifacts have similarities with comparable crafts in West and Central Africa. In contrast, African-American artisans like the New England–based engraver Scipio Moorhead and the Baltimore portrait painter Joshua Johnson created art that was conceived in a thoroughly western European fashion.[42]

During the 19th century, Harriet Powers made quilts in rural Georgia, United States that are now considered among the finest examples of 19th-century Southern quilting.[43] Later in the 20th century, the women of Gee's Bend developed a distinctive, bold, and sophisticated quilting style based on traditional African-American quilts with a geometric simplicity that developed separately but was like that of Amish quilts and modern art.[44]

After the American Civil War, museums and galleries began more frequently to display the work of African-American artists. Cultural expression in mainstream venues was still limited by the dominant European aesthetic and by racial prejudice. To increase the visibility of their work, many African-American artists traveled to Europe where they had greater freedom. It was not until the Harlem Renaissance that more European Americans began to pay attention to African-American art in America.[45]

During the 1920s, artists such as Raymond Barthé, Aaron Douglas,[46]Augusta Savage,[47] and photographer James Van Der Zee[48] became well known for their work. During the Great Depression, new opportunities arose for these and other African-American artists under the WPA. In later years, other programs and institutions, such as the New York City-based Harmon Foundation, helped to foster African-American artistic talent. Augusta Savage, Elizabeth Catlett, Lois Mailou Jones, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, and others exhibited in museums and juried art shows, and built reputations and followings for themselves.

In the 1950s and 1960s, there were very few widely accepted African-American artists. Despite this, The Highwaymen, a loose association of 27 African-American artists from Ft. Pierce, Florida, created idyllic, quickly realized images of the Florida landscape and peddled some 50,000 of them from the trunks of their cars. They sold their art directly to the public rather than through galleries and art agents, thus receiving the name "The Highwaymen". Rediscovered in the mid-1990s, today they are recognized as an important part of American folk history.[49][50] Their artwork is widely collected by enthusiasts and original pieces can easily fetch thousands of dollars in auctions and sales.[51]

The Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s was another period of resurgent interest in African-American art. During this period, several African-American artists gained national prominence, among them Lou Stovall, Ed Love, Charles White, and Jeff Donaldson. Donaldson and a group of African-American artists formed the Afrocentric collective AfriCOBRA, which remains in existence today. The sculptor Martin Puryear, whose work has been acclaimed for years, was being honored with a 30-year retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in November 2007.[52] Notable contemporary African-American artists include Willie Cole, David Hammons, Eugene J. Martin, Mose Tolliver, Reynold Ruffins, the late William Tolliver, and Kara Walker.[53]


Main article: African-American literature

African-American literature has its roots in the oral traditions of African slaves in America. The slaves used stories and fables in much the same way as they used music.[10] These stories influenced the earliest African-American writers and poets in the 18th century such as Phillis Wheatley and Olaudah Equiano. These authors reached early high points by telling slave narratives.

During the early 20th century Harlem Renaissance, numerous authors and poets, such as Langston Hughes, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington, grappled with how to respond to discrimination in America. Authors during the Civil Rights Movement, such as Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and Gwendolyn Brooks wrote about issues of racial segregation, oppression, and other aspects of African-American life. This tradition continues today with authors who have been accepted as an integral part of American literature, with works such as Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Beloved by Nobel Prize-winning Toni Morrison, and fiction works by Octavia Butler and Walter Mosley. Such works have achieved both best-selling and/or award-winning status.[54]


See also: List of museums focused on African Americans

The African-American Museum Movement emerged during the 1950s and 1960s to preserve the heritage of the African-American experience and to ensure its proper interpretation in American history.[55] Museums devoted to African-American history are found in many African-American neighborhoods. Institutions such as the African American Museum and Library at Oakland, The African American Museum in Cleveland and the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture[56] were created by African Americans to teach and investigate cultural history that, until recent decades was primarily preserved through oral traditions.[57] Other prominent museums include Chicago's DuSable Museum of African American History and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.


Main article: African American Vernacular English

Generations of hardships imposed on the African-American community created distinctive language patterns. Slave owners often intentionally mixed people who spoke different African languages to discourage communication in any language other than English. This, combined with prohibitions against education, led to the development of pidgins, simplified mixtures of two or more languages that speakers of different languages could use to communicate.[58] Examples of pidgins that became fully developed languages include Creole, common to Louisiana,[59] and Gullah, common to the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia.[60]

African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is a variety (dialect, ethnolect, and sociolect) of the American Englishlanguage closely associated with the speech of, but not exclusive to, African Americans.[61] While AAVE is academically considered a legitimate dialect because of its logical structure, some of both whites and African Americans consider it slang or the result of a poor command of Standard American English. Many African Americans who were born outside the American South still speak with hints of AAVE or southern dialect. Inner-city African-American children who are isolated by speaking only AAVE sometimes have more difficulty with standardized testing and, after school, moving to the mainstream world for work.[62][63] It is common for many speakers of AAVE to code switch between AAVE and Standard American English depending on the setting.[64]

Fashion and aesthetics[edit]


The Black Arts Movement, a cultural explosion of the 1960s, saw the incorporation of surviving cultural dress with elements from modern fashion and West African traditional clothing to create a uniquely African-American traditional style. Kente cloth is the best known African textile.[65] These festive woven patterns, which exist in numerous varieties, were originally made by the Ashanti and Ewe peoples of Ghana and Togo. Kente fabric also appears in a number of Western style fashions ranging from casual T-shirts to formal bow ties and cummerbunds. Kente strips are often sewn into liturgical and academic robes or worn as stoles. Since the Black Arts Movement, traditional African clothing has been popular amongst African Americans for both formal and informal occasions.[66] Other manifestations of traditional African dress in common evidence in African-American culture are vibrant colors, mud cloth, trade beads and the use of Adinkra motifs in jewelry and in couture and decorator fabrics.

Another common aspect of fashion in African-American culture involves the appropriate dress for worship in the Black church. It is expected in most churches that an individual present their best appearance for worship. African-American women in particular are known for wearing vibrant dresses and suits. An interpretation of a passage from the Christian Bible, "...every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head...",[67] has led to the tradition of wearing elaborate Sunday hats, sometimes known as "crowns".[68][69]


Main article: African-American hair

Hair styling in African-American culture is greatly varied. African-American hair is typically composed of coiled curls, which range from tight to wavy. Many women choose to wear their hair in its natural state. Natural hair can be styled in a variety of ways, including the afro, twist outs, braid outs, and wash and go styles. It is a myth that natural hair presents styling problems or is hard to manage; this myth seems prevalent because mainstream culture has, for decades, attempted to get African American women to conform to its standard of beauty (i.e., straight hair). To that end, some women prefer straightening of the hair through the application of heat or chemical processes.[70] Although this can be a matter of personal preference, the choice is often affected by straight hair being a beauty standard in the West and the fact that hair type can affect employment. However, more and more women are wearing their hair in its natural state and receiving positive feedback. Alternatively, the predominant and most socially acceptable practice for men is to leave one's hair natural.[71][72]

Often, as men age and begin to lose their hair, the hair is either closely cropped, or the head is shaved completely free of hair. However, since the 1960s, natural hairstyles, such as the afro, braids, and dreadlocks, have been growing in popularity. Despite their association with radical political movements and their vast difference from mainstream Western hairstyles, the styles have attained considerable, but certainly limited, social acceptance.[73]

Maintaining facial hair is more prevalent among African-American men than in other male populations in the U.S.[74] In fact, the soul patch is so named because African-American men, particularly jazz musicians, popularized the style.[75] The preference for facial hair among African-American men is due partly to personal taste, but also because they are more prone than other ethnic groups to develop a condition known as pseudofolliculitis barbae, commonly referred to as razor bumps, many prefer not to shave.[76]

Body image[edit]

European-Americans have sometimes adopted different hairbraiding techniques and other forms of African-American hair. There are also individuals and groups who are working towards raising the standing of the African aesthetic among African Americans and internationally as well. This includes efforts toward promoting as models those with clearly defined African features; the mainstreaming of natural hairstyles; and, in women, fuller, more voluptuous body types.[73][77]


While African Americans practice a number of religions, Protestant Christianity is by far the most prevalent.[78] Additionally, 14% of Muslims in the United States and Canada are black.


Main article: Black church

The religious institutions of African-American Christians commonly are referred to collectively as the black church. During slavery, many slaves were stripped of their African belief systems and typically denied free religious practice, forced to become Christian. Slaves managed, however, to hang on to some practices by integrating them into Christian worship in secret meetings. These practices, including dance, shouts, African rhythms, and enthusiastic singing, remain a large part of worship in the African-American church.[79]

African-American churches taught that all people were equal in God's eyes and viewed the doctrine of obedience to one's master taught in white churches as hypocritical – yet accepted and propagated internal hierarchies and support for corporal punishment of children among other things .[79] Instead the African-American church focused on the message of equality and hopes for a better future.[80] Before and after emancipation, racial segregation in America prompted the development of organized African-American denominations. The first of these was the AME Church founded by Richard Allen in 1787.[79]

After the Civil War the merger of three smaller Baptist groups formed the National Baptist Convention This organization is the largest African-American Christian Denomination and the second largest Baptist denomination in the United States. An African-American church is not necessarily a separate denomination. Several predominantly African-American churches exist as members of predominantly white denominations.[81] African-American churches have served to provide African-American people with leadership positions and opportunities to organize that were denied in mainstream American society. Because of this, African-American pastors became the bridge between the African-American and European American communities and thus played a crucial role in the Civil Rights Movement.[82]

Like many Christians, African-American Christians sometimes participate in or attend a Christmas play. Black Nativity by Langston Hughes is a re-telling of the classic Nativity story with gospel music.[83] Productions can be found in African-American theaters and churches all over the country.[84]


Main article: Islam in the United States

Generations before the advent of the Atlantic slave trade, Islam was a thriving religion in West Africa due to its peaceful introduction via the lucrative Trans-Saharan trade between prominent tribes in the southern Sahara and the Arabs and Berbers in North Africa. In his attesting to this fact the West African scholar Cheikh Anta Diop explained: "The primary reason for the success of Islam in Black Africa [...] consequently stems from the fact that it was propagated peacefully at first by solitary Arabo-Berber travelers to certain Black kings and notables, who then spread it about them to those under their jurisdiction".[85] Many first-generation slaves were often able to retain their Muslim identity, their descendants were not. Slaves were either forcibly converted to Christianity as was the case in the Catholic lands or were besieged with gross inconveniences to their religious practice such as in the case of the Protestant American mainland.[86]

In the decades after slavery and particularly during the depression era, Islam reemerged in the form of highly visible and sometimes controversial movements in the African-American community. The first of these of note was the Moorish Science Temple of America, founded by Noble Drew Ali. Ali had a profound influence on Wallace Fard, who later founded the Black nationalistNation of Islam in 1930. Elijah Muhammad became head of the organization in 1934. Much like Malcolm X, who left the Nation of Islam in 1964, many African-American Muslims now follow traditional Islam.[87]

Many former members of the Nation of Islam converted to Sunni Islam when Warith Deen Mohammed took control of the organization after his father's death in 1975 and taught its members the traditional form of Islam based on the Qur'an.[88] A survey by the Council on American-Islamic Relations shows that 30% of SunniMosque attendees are African Americans. In fact, most African-American Muslims are orthodox Muslims, as only 2% are of the Nation of Islam.[89]


Main article: Jewish African-Americans

There are 150,000 African Americans in the United States who practice Judaism.[90] Some of these are members of mainstream Jewish groups like the Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox branches of Judaism; others belong to non-mainstream Jewish groups like the Black Hebrew Israelites. The Black Hebrew Israelites are a collection of African-American religious organizations whose practices and beliefs are derived to some extent from Judaism. Their varied teachings often include, that African Americans are descended from the BiblicalIsraelites

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