In this episode of As In Heaven, hosts Jim Davis and Mike Aitcheson welcome Walter Strickland as he traces the history of the black church from its formation to present day. Strickland covers origins, major developments, key figures, regional differences, misunderstood perspectives, liberation theology, and the institutional, cultural, and sociological roles the black church has played in black communities. The group discusses:

  • An introduction to Walter Strickland (1:04)
  • How and why the black church came about (2:39)
  • Tension in the desire for unity (6:17)
  • Early prominent black institutions (8:03)
  • Key developments of the black church in Reconstruction (9:12)
  • The effect of suffering on black theological developments (19:16)
  • Why black people tend to identify with Moses (34:00)
  • Differences in black-church development in the North vs. the South (36:45)
  • How the Great Migration affected the development of the black church (38:59)
  • Key pre-civil-rights leaders (43:37)
  • Jim Crow laws and the black church (52:11)
  • Black Liberation theology (56:30)
  • Developments of the post-civil-rights era (1:03:04)

Explore more from TGC on the topic of race.


1. Why has there historically been a separation between black and white churches? What gave rise to this?

2. In what ways does Christ’s work on the cross give Christians hope in their daily lives? In the ways we suffer? How does the black church give an example to follow in appropriating Christ’s story into ours?

3. How do the theological commitments of the black church, which Strickland describes, affect the church’s life in this world? How does this rich theological heritage challenge or affirm your understanding of theology in black Christian tradition?

4. How might understanding this history help us as the church to fully live out the gospel and its implications for community?