The arrival of millions of African Americans to the industrial North from the agrarian South over the course of the 20th century had more than just an economic and cultural effect. While many migrants joined churches in their new cities, helping to build key institutions that would ground their communities, others found the message of organized religion lacking.
Some left for Islam and off-shoots of Judaism and African spiritualism. Many found a home in urban folk religious movements. These sects often spoke directly to the plight of African American workers, most of whom had left Jim Crow only to find segregated Northern cities, racist labor unions, and race riots. These sects often preached that Christianity was the “white man’s religion” and offered a non-Christian and non-white centered paradigm for black people to liberate themselves from their oppression.
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