Reviews387 far-reaching application wherever the Afro-Baptist church exists; nonetheless, the unity connecting his fieldwork to the text is compromised by his failure to explain this breach or to recontextualize his study. Another concern involves Pitts's interpretation of the significance of the initiation process, as it relates to the African American experience. He elects not to investigate baptism as the "disguised form" that initiation rituals may have taken in North America. Instead, to further his own thesis, he compares the first Afro-Baptist frame to West African initiation rites. He grants that in both instances "future mediums are cleansed and trained" but notes that "the former lacks scarification, physical isolation, and dietary restraints." According to other scholars of African American religion, the time baptismal candidates spend on the mourner's bench in many ways corresponds to African rite because isolation and fasting traditionally are required. Pitts's bibliography and notations indicate his awareness of research by Charles Williams, Albert Raboteau, Melville Herskovits, and Stephen Glazier in this area, yet he does not to explore this prospect. Here, conformity with past authorities may have strengthened Pitts's own case. Even with these criticisms, The Old Ship of Zion is a viable and important work.
Southern Cultures – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Jan 4, 1995
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