Televised Redemption

Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment

Carolyn M. Rouse, John L. Jackson Jr. and Marla F. Frederick

Cover of 'Televised Redemption' by Carolyn M. Rouse

NYU Press
Nov. 22, 2016


How Black Christians, Muslims, and Jews have used media to prove their equality, not only in the eyes of God but in society.

The institutional structures of white supremacy — slavery, Jim Crow laws, convict leasing, and mass incarceration — require a commonsense belief that Back people lack the moral and intellectual capacities of white people. It is through this lens of belief that racial exclusions have been justified and reproduced in the United States. Televised Redemption argues that African American religious media has long played a key role in humanizing the race by unabashedly claiming that Blacks are endowed by God with the same gifts of goodness and reason as whites — if not more, thereby legitimizing Black Americans’ rights to citizenship.

If racism is a form of perception, then religious media has not only altered how others perceive Blacks, but has also altered how Blacks perceive themselves. Televised Redemption argues that Black religious media has provided Black Americans with new conceptual and practical tools for how to be in the world, and changed how Black people are made intelligible and recognizable as moral citizens. In order to make these claims to Black racial equality, this media has encouraged dispositional changes in adherents that were at times empowering and at other times repressive. From Christian televangelism to Muslim periodicals to Hebrew Israelite radio, Televised Redemption explores the complicated but critical redemptive history of African American religious media.


“Could not be more timely or important. The authors are three outstanding scholars who have put their heads together to write a definitive book about the neglected yet crucial intersection of representation and religion by and for African Americans from anti-slavery and anti-colonial movements to #blacklivesmatter in ways that ‘denaturalize white supremacist commonsense.’ Integrating their ethnographic and historical research on the mediation of black identity through different traditions — Christianity prosperity ministry, African American Islam, and Black Hebrew Israelite — they show us the complexity of black faith communities over time. This book should be required reading in anthropology and media studies, African American studies, American history, religious studies, and many more disciplines.”

— Faye Ginsburg, the David B. Kriser Professor of Anthropology, New York University

“This book is one of a kind in disentangling the enduring and transformative power of Black, religio-political representation as embodied praxis, as hermeneutics of race, and as the radical reimaging of subjectivity in reshaping legislation, culture, and the black subject. This is a book that unveils contesting histories and hidden abodes of white supremacist narratives set against the existential remapping of Christianity, Islam and Judaism that are lived, practiced, and meditated through Black spirituality and the profundity of its rhetorical mission. Media and Black religion become something more in this book: they become a culmination of this moment in which a Black president and the call for Black lives to matter rise out of the machinery of representation, the passion of belonging, and the endurance of belief.”

— D. Soyini Madison, professor of performance studies, Northwestern University

“This book stands as a herculean ethnographic effort and an innovative historical analysis of the uses of print, television, radio, sound technologies, and new media by African American religious actors in the United States and diasporic Africana communities.”

Reading Religion