A fair, general description of liberation theology is given by Paul Surlis :
Initially described as second-order reflection on praxis in the light of
faith and the word of God, liberation theology, as the description
makes clear, is one result of a new way of living the Christian religion,
a way that combines action on behalf of social justice with prayer and
worship. And since those who saw their faith and the word of God as
providing inspiration and empowerment for social struggle, were
predominantly the poor, liberation theology represented the emergence
of the poor as a new force in religion and concomitantly in society.
Liberation theology is definitely theology since it bases itself on Christian doctrine. What makes it liberationist is that, more than traditional or orthodox Christianity, it sees social justice, especially in regard to the poor, as integral to a proper understanding of Christian doctrine and a correct, indeed mandatory, dimension of Christian practice (praxis).
BLACK LIBERATION THEOLOGY
A useful source here is HAYES, DIANA. And Still We Rise: An Introduction to Black Liberation Theology. New York and Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1996. Key points emerge in a review by Linda E. Thomas :
[Hayes' thesis is] that black theology arises from the experience of being black and oppressed in the United States, and as such,
its goal is to articulate a theology rendering meaning to black people in their
context and to make plain the full dimensionality of being black and Christian.
For Hayes, black theology's first obligation is to the black community and second-
arily, and unabashedly, to proclaim a black liberationist perspective to the world.
With this thesis, Hayes examines the African roots of black theology whose
liberative theme is the result of the experience of Africans (both slave and free)
who imagined God at work in their lives despite their having been forcibly re-
moved from African soil, coerced to be chattel, and destined to bear children
who, for successive generations to the present, were dehumanized because of
their skin color. The positive history of black people in the United States and
their invariable toil against prejudice, discrimination, and dehumanization is the
fabric out of which black liberation theology is woven. African slaves and their
descendants created a religion that gave meaning to the context in which they
lived. According to Hayes, the foundational documents in constructing black the-
ology were James H. Cone's Black Theology and Black Power (New York, 1969) and
A Black Theology of Liberation (Philadelphia, 1970). Drawing on the biblical story of
the God of liberation found in Exodus, Cone crafted a systematic and contextual-
ized theology that incorporated the religious experiences found in the black
Church. This institution uplifted and empowered black people who today con-
tinue to ask: "What is God's purpose and meaning for us as a people of African
descent in a country which seeks to deny our very humanity? How can and should
we act as God's agents and live up to the Gospel mandate?" (p. 14). (Linda E. Thomas, The Journal of Religion, Vol. 78, No. 4 (Oct., 1998), pp. 642-643 : 642.)
CONNECTING THE TWO
The promotion of social justice, which is a hallmark of liberation theology, takes account in black liberation theology of the social injustices experienced specifically by blacks in the ways Linda E. Thomas spells out.
Liberation Theology: A Documentary History. Ed. Alfred T. Hennelly.
Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis. Pp. xxvi + 547.
Liberation Theology and Its Critics: Toward an Assessment. Arthur F. McGovern. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis. Pp. xxii + 281.
Rufus Burrow, James H. Cone and Black Liberation Theology, Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1994. Pp. xxi + 281.