Black history is inspired by a global faith identity

February 16, 2017
Participants gathered for lunch and worship at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, a historic Pan-African church in Washington, D.C. as part of the 2016 Pan-African Women of Faith International Consultation. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

By Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith

Since the earliest days of Christianity, people of African descent have been drawn to the Word. This legacy is manifested in the United States through the lives and descendants of African slaves forced to immigrate to the Americas. In An Unbroken Circle, Father Antonious, a scholar in the Coptic (Egyptian) Orthodox Church, argues that “ancient, apostolic, Orthodox Christianity has gone full circle, from continent to continent, from Christ to His Apostles, from the Apostles to ancient Africa, from Africa to America, and from Black Americans to their sons and daughters.”

Father Antonious points out that “[f]rom its beginning to its end, the Bible provides information about God’s dealing with numerous nations, peoples, and tongues.  Of the many people who are mentioned and highlighted in the Scripture, many are black people, African people.” This Pan-African lens helps us understand why churches primarily composed of people of African descent have advanced expressions of their global identity.

From the beginnings of ancient African churches, like the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox, a primary mandate has been to share the gospel  to African kindred. This is also true of Historic African-American churches. These churches have had a special affinity to Africa and the African Diaspora. Each is organized to claim its historic Christian identity while deepening its commitment to ministry and mission.

This legacy extends beyond ancient churches and Historic African-American churches to African-American congregations within national churches that are not predominantly African-American. These include Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, and Pentecostal families of faith. Many have a strong evangelical orientation.  It is rare to visit  national or international gatherings of these sects and not see Pan-African representation.

Today, a renewed fervor in these churches has resulted in reorganized networks, associations, and denominational bodies in the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, and other parts of the world. In the United States, this has been sparked, in part, by an increase of first- and second-generation Christian immigrants of African descent .

Congregants in these churches understand the urgency of addressing hunger and poverty as priorities. The life and teachings of Jesus illustrate this, as do the history and present realities of Pan-African people in the United States and the world—who disproportionately experience hunger and poverty.

Bread for the World has always been a partner with these churches and looks forward deepening that relationship as we celebrate Black history.

Rev. Dr. Angelique Walker-Smith is senior associate for pan-African and Orthodox church engagement at Bread for the World.

From the beginnings of ancient African churches, like the Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox, a primary mandate has been to share the gospel  to African kindred. 

from our Resource Library

For Education

  • The Nourishing Effect

    Hunger and food insecurity add at least $160 billion a year to U.S. healthcare costs.

  • The Impacts of Proposed Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Cuts on the Latino Community

    To end hunger and poverty in the United States by 2030, our country needs to support a budget that improves the lives of men, women, and children. Unfortunately, the Trump administration and Congress are proposing dramatic cuts to programs that promote economic opportunity or provide food...

  • The Dream Act of 2017 (S. 1615 & H.R. 3440)


    The United States is a nation of immigrants. Throughout its history, people have moved here from all over the world and have contributed to their communities and our national life. Today, as in the past, immigrants are also creating prosperity for this nation. 


For Faith

  • The Bible on Health as a Hunger Issue

    A brief examination of the biblical approach to health as a hunger issue.

    Includes an introduction to the issue, a Scriptural reflection, practical actions you can take, and a prayer.

  • Bread Newsletter January 2016

    In this issue: Another Great Year for Bread; Catholics Begin Observance of Holy Year of Mercy; Serving on ‘God’s Wave Length’ for 39 Years; and more.

  • Interfaith Religious Leaders’ Pledge to End Hunger

    A wide array of the nation’s faith leaders have come together on the eve of Pope Francis’ arrival in the United States to commit ourselves to encourage our communities to work for the end of hunger by 2030 and, toward that end, for a shift in U.S. national priorities.

    We are deeply pleased...

For Advocacy

  • Grassroots Advocacy Toolkit

    A set of how-to sheets for carrying out advocacy and fact sheets on the current issues Bread for the World is working on.

    For new and current Bread grassroots hunger activists.

    Ideal as a starter toolkit for new Bread activists or as a set of updates for current activists.


  • The State of Black Poverty: A Pan-African Millennial Perspective on Ending Hunger by 2030

    Over the past year and a half, about two-dozen young adults from the United States and countries in Africa and the Caribbean, have gathered virtually and in person to reflect on the effects of hunger and poverty in black communities. The working group has been considering socio-political and...

  • Fact Sheet: The Hunger-Medicaid Connection

    Congress is considering proposals that would jeopardize healthcare coverage for millions of poor and near-poor adults and children. 

    Legislation under consideration in the House and Senate would gut...