The divisive racial history of the United States has led to the creation of separate churches to serve the African American community, though many are witnessing greater levels of integration in today’s society. Historically, the four primary black churches have been the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the National Baptist Convention, and the Church of God in Christ. While the theological teachings within these institutions does not differ dramatically from Protestant denominations that serve the white community, research has shown that black churches tend to incorporate teachings about various social issues, such as gang violence, drug abuse, and prison reform, into their teachings than to churches with largely white congregants.
Generally, black churches have served as much more than a religious institution. For generations, black churches were centerpieces of the African American community, providing social services and support programs when such were not offered by local, state, or national government organizations. Whether it is teaching underprivileged members of society basic literacy or job skills, or whether it is serving as a rallying point for social movements such as the Civil Rights Movement or the Black Lives Matter movement, black churches have historically operated well outside the scope of a simple religious institution. Because of this all-encompassing nature, black churches often play a greater role in the African American community than one might see in an overwhelmingly white community.