Members of black faith communities asserted and expanded their freedom through worship, music, and many other activities. Faith communities were one of the few arenas for leadership and participation open to people of African descent. In the absence of schools, churches offered educational opportunities. Since blacks could not freely visit restaurants, theaters, and other public venues, the church provided a comfortable setting where they could share a meal, enjoy leisure activities and entertainment, and develop friendships.
From their beginnings black faith communities strongly opposed racism, slavery, and segregation. They denounced these practices as contrary to divine principles and the highest standards of human decency. The primary agencies of autonomy and self help, churches and other faith communities became the central force in maintaining group cohesion and fostering self-respect under difficult circumstances. Their work can be viewed as an early expression of black power.