Swing Low, volume 1: A History of Black Christianity in the United States, By Walter R. Strickland II
Swing Low, volume 1
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Dimensions: 6 × 9 in
  • Published: October 29, 2024
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0936
  • ISBN: 9781514009369

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A Groundbreaking Portrait of African American Christianity

The history of African American Christianity is one of the determined faith of a people driven to pursue spiritual and social uplift for themselves and others to God's glory. Yet stories of faithful Black Christians have often been forgotten or minimized. The dynamic witness of the Black church in the United States is an essential part of Christian history that must be heard and dependably retold.

In this groundbreaking two-volume work, Walter R. Strickland II does just that through a theological-intellectual history highlighting the ways theology has formed and motivated Black Christianity across the centuries. Through his original research he has identified five theological anchors grounding African Americans in Christian orthodoxy:

  • Big God
  • Jesus
  • Conversion and walking in the Spirit
  • The Good Book
  • Deliverance

In volume 1, a narrative history, Strickland tells the story of these themes from the 1600s to the present. He explores the crucial ecclesiastical, social, and theological developments, including the rise of Black evangelicalism as well as broader contributions to politics and culture.

Swing Low offers a defining rubric under which to observe, understand, and learn from the diverse and living entity that is African American Christianity. Volume 2, a companion anthology, covers the breadth of these historical developments by presenting primary-source documents so we can listen to Black Christianity in its own words.

"Walter Strickland's narrative of Black American Christianity provides a well-researched, carefully organized, and immensely informative history of an immensely important subject. The accompanying volume of well-chosen and well-introduced documents makes a valuable project even more useful. With its focus on Black Protestants, these books are landmarks for the exploration of the nation's past and its perennial struggles over race. Most of all they record a story that has been regularly neglected in accounts of American Christianity. It is the often unexpected, sometimes contentious, but enduring impact of the Christian gospel throughout African American history."

Mark Noll, author of America's Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794–1911, and C. S. Lewis in America

"In Swing Low, Strickland takes readers on a profound journey by combining historical narrative (volume one) with primary resources (volume two) to illuminate the triumphs, struggles, and theological developments that have shaped and continue to shape Black Christianity's enduring legacy in the United States. Throughout the entirety of these volumes, readers are invited to deeply explore how the Black church in America continues to navigate the challenges and opportunities of our contemporary world. They are simultaneously encouraged to envision a future where the Black church remains a catalyst for holistic liberation and spiritual renewal and continues to be a voice for justice, reconciliation, and communal transformation. This book is essential reading for pastors, theologians, and all who seek to understand the unique and profound contributions of the Black church in America and to honor its enduring legacy, learn from its theological insights, and join in the ongoing pursuit of liberation, healing, and reconciliation in our communities and beyond."

Bryan Carter, pastor of Concord Church in Dallas, Texas

"In these complementary volumes, Walter R. Strickland II provides a detailed and profound rendering of the story of African American Christianity. The assembled documents, dating as far back as 1619 and as current as the present year, illustrate thought formed in response to various matters of concern. Among this wide range of ideas, Strickland brings to the fore the recurring, interrelated convictions about God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, conversion and sanctification, and freedom and liberation in each era."

Frederick L. Ware, professor of theology at Howard University School of Divinity

"Walter R. Strickland II has made an incredible contribution with both volumes of Swing Low, laying out a well-organized history of the African American Christian tradition, and supporting it with an expansive anthology of primary sources. His thorough work highlights people and movements that were instrumental in American religious history. It is a valuable resource for those studying the holistic story of the church in America."

J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

"There are many ways to tell a story; Walter Strickland tells the story of the Black church through a theological lens. These scholarly and accessible volumes tell the story of the Black church by introducing us to many faithful saints, some familiar but many less well-known. These lives show us how the Black church pursued and embodied a faith where beliefs matter as much as faithful and liberating practice. We encounter a holistic faith where we see many ways to walk faithfully in a world full of tremendous challenges. Strickland has given us a long-needed historical narrative and anthology."

Vincent Bacote, professor of theology and the director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics at Wheaton College

Read an Excerpt



1. Introduction
2. A Transatlantic Faith
3. Deliverance in the Shadows
4. Faith Reclaimed
5. The Invisible Institution Becomes Visible
6. "Alpha and Omega of All Things"
7. A New Normal
8. Budding Theological Movements
9. The Road to the Civil Rights Movement
Interlude: Theologizing Black Consciousness
10. Black Evangelical Identity
11. Black Evangelical Consciousness
12. Black Evangelical Diaspora
13. The Arrival of Black Liberation
14. Heirs of Black Liberation
15. Into the Twenty-First Century

General Index
Scripture Index


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Walter Strickland

Walter R. Strickland II (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is associate professor of systematic and contextual theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has coauthored or contributed to several books, including For God So Loved the World: A Blueprint for Kingdom Diversity. He is a host of the White Horse Inn podcast and founder of Cultural Engagement and Aptree Learning.