Revive my soul: experiences of incarcerated black male conversion to selected african-centered religious and spiritual belief systems

Atlanta University and Clark Atlanta University Theses and Dissertations
Revive my soul: experiences of incarcerated black male conversion to selected african-centered religious and spiritual belief systems
Pamoja, Naaman Josiah
Date of Original:
Degrees, Academic
Dissertations, Academic
United States, Georgia, Fulton County, Atlanta, 33.749, -84.38798
Degree Type: dissertation
Degree Name: Doctor of Arts (DA)
Date of Degree: 2014
Granting Institution: Clark Atlanta University
Department/ School: Department of African American Studies
The purpose of this research was to investigate the factors affecting the choices of some incarcerated black men to convert to selected African-centered religious and spiritual belief systems such as the African Hebrew Israelites. various African-American Muslim traditions. and African-centered Christianity. Some individuals may suggest that the religious conversion experience of El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. commonly referred to as Malcolm X, was a classic exemplar of an incarcerated black male converting to an African-centered religious and spiritual belief system. In particular. a fundamental turning point in Malcolm x�s conversion unfolded within the context of his personal experiences with race. religion. and incarceration. However, the tripartite nature of his religious conversion experience grew out of broader patterns of race. religion, and incarceration that still shape various dimensions of the human experience in American society. More specifically. the informal and formal institution of religion and the broader dimensions of spirituality have been inexorably linked to the socio-historical experiences of people of African descent in America.1 Similarly, religion has also occupied a significant presence in American penal institutions since the opening of Philadelphia's Walnut Street Jail in 1790.2 In recent times, particularly in the last thirty years, the U.S. corrections system has experienced an unprecedented period of growth. Furthermore, the overrepresentation of racial or ethnic groups, primarily African Americans, has been one of the more noticeable characteristics of the current demographic shifts in American corrections. Therefore, as this backdrop of race, religion, and incarceration has continued to develop, it is likely that experiences similar to those of Malcolm X have transpired among incarcerated black men in contemporary American society. Withstanding the demographic changes in American corrections, religion and spirituality have continued to appeal to inmates and in turn some scholars. Moreover, early psychologist of religion, William James, maintains that there is a considerable amount of variety across religious experiences, thus different people encounter their own distinct religious experiences.3 In terms of incarcerated black male religious and spiritual conversion, the experiences of figures such as Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, and Sanyika Shakur, aka. Kody Scott, illustrate the degree of variety associated with an individual's religious experience.4 Despite such variations, careful observation of individual selected African-centered religious conversion experiences of incarcerated black males also reveal general patterns of consistency as it pertains to identity transformation. Yet, the patterns associated with the race, religion, and incarceration paradigm, as it relates to what one might refer to as African-centered religious and spiritual belief systems and their appeal among incarcerated black men has yet to be thoroughly explored within existing scholarship.
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Clark Atlanta University
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