Old Ship of Zion: The Afro-Baptist Ritual in the African Diaspora

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This book retraces the African origins of African-American forms of worship. During a five-year period in the field, Pitts played the piano at and recorded numerous worship services in black Baptist churches throughout rural Texas. His historical comparisons and linguistic analyses of this material uncover striking parallels between Afro-Baptist services and the religious rituals of Western and Central Africa, as well as other African-derived rituals in the United States Sea Islands, the Caribbean, and Brazil. Pitts demonstrates that African and African-American worship share an underlying binary ritual frame: the somber melancholy of the first frame and the high emotion of the second frame. Pitts's revealing perspective on this often misunderstood aspect of African-American religion provides an investigative model for the study of diaspora cultural practices and the residual influence of their African sources.