The Black Church
The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song
On Thursday, February 25, 2021, Nebraska Public Media held a virtual conversation about The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song, featuring clips from the series. The conversation explored the history of the Black Church nationally and in Omaha, as well as how it is still shaping the community today. Our panelists were:
- Pastor Kenneth Allen, Zion Baptist Church
- Ra’Daniel Arvie, University of Nebraska-Lincoln student and Assistant Director of Choirs & Praise Team at Mount Nebo Missionary Baptist Church
- Dr. Gloria Epps, Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and retired Omaha Public Schools teacher
- Jade Rogers, Adjunct Professor at Metropolitan Community College and the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and the Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of The House of Afros, Capes, & Curls
Continue the conversation!
Explore below to discover discussion guides, Nebraska resources, and a historic photo gallery with images of the Black Church in Omaha.
Download these discussion guides especially created for The Black Church
- Dine and Dish
The best conversations happen around the kitchen table. Follow along with recipes inspired by The Black Church from renowned chefs Kwame Onwuachi and Kelis Rogers – and use this toolkit to spark conversation at your table.
- Bible Study Guide
This toolkit is designed to help you transform any gathering into Bible Study, complete with scripture and a discussion guide to bring you and yours closer to the legacy of the Black Church.
- “Our Song” Guided Playlist
With so many powerful songs featured in The Black Church, we know you’ll want to know more about the music that bridged Saturday night and Sunday morning. This guided playlist features our favorite songs from the series with behind-the-scenes insights and historical tidbits.
- “Our Story” Coloring Book
Behind every great historical institution are unsung women, and that is no different with The Black Church. This “Our Story” coloring book (enjoyable for any age!) celebrates the histories of some of The Black Church’s more extraordinary women.
The Black Church in Nebraska
Explore these resources to start your journey learning more about the Black Church in Nebraska.
This Nebraska Public Media documentary, originally broadcast in 2016, showcases a variety of houses of worship across Nebraska, including Lincoln's Quinn AME Chapel. Watch this segment, which features interviews with then-pastor Karla J. Cooper, parishioner Loretta M. Russell, historic preservation planner Ed Zimmer, and the late church historian Lowen Kruse.
Online Resources and Articles
- A History of Black Churches in Omaha from NorthOmahaHistory.com
North Omaha native Adam Fletcher-Sasse gives a brief overview of the history of Black churches in the city, along with short histories of many of the houses of worship. North Omaha History has additional articles with more details about the many Black churches in Omaha. (Pictured right: St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church. Photo courtesy Great Plains Black History Museum.)
- Profile of Lincoln's Mount Zion Baptist Church from the Lincoln Journal-Star
Cindy Lange-Kubrick interviews current members of the oldest Black Baptist Church in the state of Nebraska, founded in 1879 and originally located at 12th and F.
- North Omaha Church History from Invisible History
A project of Omaha Public Schools, this site explores the roles that churches in North Omaha played historically and their continued relevance through research and video interviews.
- Rev. Russel Taylor and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1920s Omaha from History Nebraska
This blog post from History Nebraska shares the story of Rev. Russel Taylor, a pastor of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church in Omaha in the 1920s, who was a tireless advocate for civil rights.
- Profile of St. Benedict of the Moors Church in Catholic Voice Omaha
A profile of the Black Catholic parish from April 2019 highlighting its 100th anniversary.
- "The Omaha Gospel Complex in Historical Perspective" from Great Plains Quarterly
Historian Tom Jack examines the the development of gospel music in Omaha in this scholarly article originally published in 2000, now available vis UNL's Digital Commons.
- Nebraska History Moment: Malcolm X from PBS LearningMedia
The legendary civil rights activist was born in Omaha. His father, Earl Little, was a Baptist pastor in North Omaha and served as president of the Omaha chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association before the family relocated to Michigan.
DeWitty was the longest lasting, most successful Black settlement in Nebraska. Located near the small town of Brownlee, DeWitty was established in 1906 and settled by former slaves and black Canadian immigrants. The community’s church, St. James AME, was built in 1910. At a time when American cities were erupting in race riots, the black settlers of DeWitty and white residents of Brownlee peacefully coexisted and thrived together. Meet descendants of both communities as they gather to commemorate their shared history in this 2017 segment from our Nebraska Stories series. (Pictured above: DeWitty churchgoers in front of St. James AME. Photo courtesy History Nebraska.)
Originally broadcast in 1994, this documentary highlights Omaha's near north side, home to many of the city's Black churches.
- Curriculum Resource: Racial Tensions in Nebraska After World War I
Learn more about Black migration to Omaha, systemic racism in Omaha's early 20th century political machine, and the lynching of Will Brown in the summer of 1919 with this lesson plan from NebraskaStudies.org.
- Curriculum Resource: Mildred Brown, Omaha Star Founder
Learn more about Mildred Brown, founder of the Black-owned newspaper the Omaha Star. The newspaper's building is located on 24th Street in Omaha and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
View these historic images of the Black Church in Omaha provided by the Great Plains Black History Museum and the Durham Museum.
Thanks to Great Plains Black History Museum, led by executive director Eric Ewing, for providing historical photos for our photo gallery. Additional thanks to Jade Rogers of The House of Afros, Capes, and Curls, NorthOmahaHistory.com, and the Durham Museum.
About the series
The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song is a moving four-hour, two-part series from executive producer, host and writer Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, traces the 400-year-old story of the Black church in America, all the way down to its bedrock role as the site of African American survival and grace, organizing and resilience, thriving and testifying, autonomy and freedom, solidarity and speaking truth to power.
The documentary reveals how Black people have worshipped and, through their spiritual journeys, improvised ways to bring their faith traditions from Africa to the New World, while translating them into a form of Christianity that was not only truly their own, but a redemptive force for a nation whose original sin was found in their ancestors’ enslavement across the Middle Passage. A production of McGee Media, Inkwell Media and WETA Washington, D.C., in association with Get Lifted.
Major corporate support for THE BLACK CHURCH: THIS IS OUR STORY, THIS IS OUR SONG is provided by Johnson & Johnson. Major support is also provided by the Lilly Endowment Inc., Ford Foundation, and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers.
Learn more about the series: pbs.org/BlackChurch
Join the conversation #BlackChurchPBS