Saving and Selling Black Bodies

Examining the Role of Christian Identity in the African-American Funeral Home

Sponsored by the Louisville Institute

African American churches and funeral homes have always held close ties with each other, serving as bastions of black identity in the United States, from the formation of the first AME burial societies in Philadelphia in 1778. These close ties between church and funeral home continue today in the contemporary church. In 1995, the National Baptist Convention (NBC) accepted a $100,000 donation from Canadian company, the Loewen Group, the second largest funeral home chain in North America, to designate them as “the funeral home of choice” for National Baptist churches and its members. The National Funeral Directors and Mortician’s Association (NFDMA), a group representing the black funeral home business, viewed this as a betrayal of both black identity and African American religiosity, stating that the NBC essentially sold black churches, and betrayed their culture, in exchange for a hefty donation. In a culture where black bodies have been routinely bought and sold, deathcare has been seen as a realm where the body can be reclaimed along with the spirit. How does the corporatization of the death industry in the United States change the identity politics of the African American funeral home, and in what ways does this commercialization impact black religiosity and identity?

Project Photo Journal:

Follow Candi's research journey with the Louisville Institute through the eyes of her daughter, deathscholarkid, who will be taking pictures and posting about their research journeys.