Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, overcame Georgia’s long history of racial prejudice and a traditionally Republican electorate to become the state’s first black US senator.
Warnock’s historic election in January is rooted in a deep American tradition that blacks use their right to religious freedom as a basis for building political power. For many, freedom of worship has provided both a refuge from a hostile society and the opportunity to organize their communities around the exercise of other First Amendment rights such as assembly, petition, and speech.
The Black Church, by safeguarding religious expression within black culture, has been “a sacred space that enables black people to act to secure their political rights as citizens and human beings in America,” writes Sharon J Grant, Professor at Hood Theological Seminary, in “African Americans and Religious Freedom: New Perspectives for Congregations and Communities.”
Warnock’s story epitomizes the centuries-long struggle for the emancipation of black Americans. The religious community he leads is a source of support and inspiration for the political change he hopes to bring about in Washington.
His religious predecessors shared some of the same hopes – and many have met stiff opposition. Resistance continues today under …
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