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Today "the black church" is widely understood to include the following seven major black Protestant denominations: the National Baptist Convention, the National Baptist Convention of America, the Progressive National Convention, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church and the Church of God in Christ.New historical evidence documents the arrival of slaves in the English settlement in Jamestown, Va., in 1619.Eventually Obama broke with Wright and left Trinity, but his speech illuminated the role of the black church in the African American experience.

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In time, a Second and a Third African Church were formed, also led by black pastors.

In the North, blacks had more authority over their religious affairs.

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.

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.

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