Historically, many Blacks deployed religion as a subversive ideological tool, such as within the struggle against the dehumanizing, yet constitutionally authorized system of slavery as well as the state-sponsored and -sanctioned violence of lynching, voting restrictions and segregation. Even contemporarily, a growing body of empirical evidence shows that religion and spirituality matter in the lives of Black undergraduate students, informing their vocational choices, coping capacities, and styles and enhancing psychological resistance to racial stress. Though higher education researchers are becoming increasingly attentive to American college students’ spiritual lives, fewer scholars have invested equitable energies in better understanding Black students’ spiritual and religious experiences as well as exploring the form and content of Black undergraduates’ spiritual identities. Thus, the research questions that guided our study were the following: (a) What factors influence students’ spiritual identities prior to and during college? and (b) How are students’ spiritual identities raced and gendered and interact with their sexual identities? We report findings focused specifically on the social mechanisms—and their attendant ideologies— that coproduce students’ spiritual identities as well as students’ agentive negotiations.
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