Black Theology arose from the social and political excitement of the late 1960s. Many African American clergy, scholars and activists were disillusioned by the slowness with which social change was happening for the African American people. So, they moved from continuing to integrate themselves into the prevalent and white-dominated society towards an affirmation of black power. Black power for them was black self-determination, cultural affirmation, political empowerment and racial pride. They gave their support and affirmation to identity politics of the early 1970s. The Black Theology movement was the Christian theological response to the above movement among the African Americans.
Black Theology was a self-conscious attempt to enter into a conversation about God and God’s relationship with black people in the world, throughout history. At the heart of Black Theology is the concept of Liberation. The word Black symbolizes oppressed people. So, Black Theology represents God’s solidarity with the oppressed people. Oppressed people are those who have been marginalised due to their blackness, i.e. their skin colour and race and have been considered as lesser human beings. The starting point for Black Theology is the reality for being a black in the world, and the experience that grows out of the lived reality of how the world treats you as a person of darker skin and of African descent.
In the late 1960s, in North America, a black theologian, James Cone, wrote Black Theology and Black Power. This book established itself as a ground breaking text for both black theologies and liberation theologies as a whole. James Cone was concerned with the absence of African American experience in Christian churches and theological education. He was also concerned about racism that was present in American Culture and Society. James Cone argued that the black churches in North America were either submissive or indifferent to the race-based oppression faced by African Americans. The churches had not concerned themselves with preaching and aspiring for social justice. Hope in black churches was limited to after-life. Hope in this world was not preached. To him, black churches were adhering to the theologies of the white christians who had their own contextual concerns addressed in their own Theology. Cone argued that the theological education of North America focussed mainly on White, European theologians. Due to this, it failed to recognize the role of white Christian churches and Theologies in racism and slavery. History has seen the enslavement of 15-20 million Africans. Cone criticizes the behavior of white Christians towards black people in the name of religion and Christ.
African American black theology drew from the social and political theories of the Black Power movement in North America. According to Cone, Black power signified Christ’s presence in North America through the oppressed. He argued that Christ always was found on the side of the oppressed. God identifies with oppressed to the point that their experience becomes God’s experience. The God of Cone’s black theology, is a God of liberation identifying with the oppressed people. Therefore Christ in North America was a Black (and not a White).
Starting from North America, Black Theology has spread across the world: the Caribbean, South America, Southern Africa, Europe and Britain.
Black Theology | Encyclopedia.com
A Brief Outline of Black Theology | Student Christian Movement