Powerful pastors often played prominent roles in politics, as typified by Martin Luther King Jr., the leader of the Civil Rights Movement, and numerous others. About 12% of African American people do not have a religion and identify as atheist or agnostic, slightly lower than the figure for the whole of the USA.
In a survey in 2007 by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, the African-American population are found to be more religious than the U. population as a whole with 87% affiliated to a religion, and 79% saying that "religion is very important in their life", compared with 83% and 56% resp. The population is mostly Christian, with 83% of black Americans identifying as Christian, including 45% who identify as baptist. Some slaves brought traditional beliefs and practices, especially related to Islam and in some instances magic, with them from Africa.
They encourage Negroes to feel that God will see to it that things work out all right; if not in this world, certainly in the world to come.
They make God influential chiefly in the beyond, and preparing a home for the faithful – a home where His suffering servants will be free of the trials and tribulations which beset them on earth.
White Baptists expressed the view that: God had chastised them and given them a special mission – to maintain orthodoxy, strict biblicism, personal piety, and traditional race relations. Rather, emancipation was a historical tragedy and the end of Reconstruction was a clear sign of God's favor. They appreciated opportunities to exercise their independence, to worship in their own way, to affirm their worth and dignity, and to proclaim the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.
Most of all, they could form their own churches, associations, and conventions.
After Emancipation in 1863, Freedmen organized their own churches, chiefly Baptist, followed by Methodists.
Other Protestant denominations, and Catholics, played smaller roles.
For instance, First Baptist Church and Gillfield Baptist Church of Petersburg, Virginia, both had organized congregations by 1800 and were the first Baptist churches in the city.
The preacher begins calmly, speaking in conversational, if oratorical and occasionally grandiloquent, prose; he then gradually begins to speak more rapidly, excitedly, and to chant his words and time to a regular beat; finally, he reaches an emotional peak in which the chanted speech becomes tonal and merges with the singing, clapping, and shouting of the congregation.