The Other Black Church: Alternative Christian Movements and the Struggle for Black Freedom examines the movements led by Father Divine, Charles Mason, and Albert Cleage (later known as Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman) as alternative Christian movements in the middle of the twentieth century that radically re-envisioned the limits and possibilities of Black citizenship. These movements not only rethink the value and import of Christian texts and reimagined the role of the Black Christian prophetic tradition, but they also outlined a new model of protest that challenged the language and logic of Black essentialism, economic development, and the role of the state. By placing these movements in conversation with the long history of Black theology and Black religious studies, this book suggests that alternative Christian movements are essential for thinking about African American critiques of and responses to the failures of U.S.-based democracy. These prophets of Black theological thought and their attention to the limits of the state and traditional Black religious formations are most fully appreciated when studied in light of their conversations and interactions with other key Black prophetic and theological figures of the mid-twentieth century. Ultimately, The Other Black Church will use those conversations and archives from these movements to highlight their protest of the racial state, to explore the limits of the Black church, and to argue for their continued significance for thinking about the variety and vibrancy of Black protest, specifically Black religious protest, during the twentieth century.
Joseph L. Tucker Edmonds is assistant professor of religious studies and Africana studies at Indiana University’s School of Liberal Arts (IUPUI) and the Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture.
Chapter 1: The Canonical Black Body
Chapter 2: Bound No More: Charles Mason, Black Scriptures and the Working-Class Body
Chapter 3: Deracinated Democracy and the Black Divine
Chapter 4: The Whole Body: Alternative Christian Economic Self-Determination and the Black Madonna
Chapter 5: Toward Embodied Freedom: Crisis and Collaborations on the Margins of the Black Church Tradition
About the Author
Tucker Edmonds argues that three non-mainstream, mid-20th-century religious movements are as central to affirming the Black body (both physical entity and metaphor) as those associated with Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. He presumes readers are familiar with all three movements—Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, founded by Charles Mason; Father Divine's Peace Mission movement; and Albert Cleage's Shrine of the Black Madonna—and with key Black religious thinkers. Tucker Edmonds emphasizes Mason's opposition to war and advocacy of female leadership, Divine's calls for a non-racialized community (body), and Cleage's commitment to Black economic development. Recommended.
The Other Black Church is an essential read for those who wish to understand the Black religious experience in its totality. The book moves Mason, Divine, and Cleage from the fringes and clearly links them to the prophetic tradition of the Black church.