Black folks in America have had a long history with the church. During the time of slavery, it was a belief in God that got many of the enslaved people through the harsh times, and during the civil rights movements, many of the organizing began in local churches. But as the 20th century bled into the 21st, many Americans, including African Americans, began to redefine the role of church and God in their lives. Some became “spiritual,” others traded Jesus for Allah, and many more stopped believing all together. But according to a new study by the Kaiser Foundation and the Washington Post, black women are one of the most religious groups in America.
Nearly nine in 10 African-American women rely on faith, according to anationwide survey conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation. The poll, the most extensive look at black women’s lives in decades, reveals that as a group, black women are among the most religious people in the nation. Although black men are almost as religious as their female counterparts, there is a more stark divide along racial lines.
The survey found that 74 percent of black women and 70 percent of black men said “living a religious life” is very important. On that same question, the number falls to 57 percent of white women and 43 percent of white men.
But in times of turmoil, about 87 percent of black women — much more than any other group — say they turn to their faith to get through. Black women, across education and income levels, say living a religious life is a greater priority than being married or having children, and this call to faith either surpasses or pulls even with having a career as a life goal, the survey shows.
Although white women are also religious, surveyors suspect black women are even more tied to their religious views due to cultural aspects. Gospel music and the importance of the black church in overcoming oppression have continued to keep black women in the fold.
Stacey Floyd-Thomas, an associate professor at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, takes it a step further:
“Black women have been the most mistreated and scandalized in U.S. society and culture as they wrestle both individually and collectively with the triple jeopardy of racism, sexism, and classism. If that is the case — and I believe it is — it is no wonder that black women, due to their experience of sexism, would seek out their faith as a way of finding relief, reprieve, resolution, and redemption.”