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During the 1770s and 1780s, black ministers began to preach to their own people, drawing on the stories, people and events depicted in the Old and New Testaments.

No story spoke more powerfully to slaves than the story of Exodus, with its themes of bondage and liberation brought by a righteous and powerful God who would one day set them free.

Eventually Obama broke with Wright and left Trinity, but his speech illuminated the role of the black church in the African American experience.

Standing apart from the dominant white society, yet engaged in a continuing dialogue with it, the church evolved with countless acts of faith and resistance, piety and protest. In its origins, the phrase was largely an academic category.

Many worshipped in established, predominantly white congregations, but by the late 18th century, blacks had begun to congregate in self-help and benevolent associations called African Societies.

Functioning as quasi-religious organizations, these societies often gave rise to independent black churches.

In black churches, women generally were not permitted to preach.

One notable exception was Jarena Lee, who became an itinerant preacher, traveling thousands of miles and writing her own spiritual autobiography.

In the North, blacks had more authority over their religious affairs.Marilyn Mellowes was principally responsible for the research and development of the series God in America and has served as its series producer.She produced and wrote From Jesus to Christ, the First Christians, a four-hour FRONTLINE series that premiered in 1998.Some white owners allowed the enslaved to worship in white churches, where they were segregated in the back of the building or in the balconies.Occasionally persons of African descent might hear a special sermon from white preachers, but these sermons tended to stress obedience and duty, and the message of the apostle Paul: "Slaves, obey your masters." Both Methodists and Baptists made active efforts to convert enslaved Africans to Christianity; the Methodists also licensed black men to preach.

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