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This Far by Faith

Journeys

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1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW
1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER
1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANING
Black Liberation Theology TODAY: The Journey Continues



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Timeline: 1967-TODAY View Detailed Timeline
TODAY: The Journey Continues
TODAY: The Journey Continues



1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANING
Black Liberation Theology



"Their suffering becomes his; their despair, divine despair. Through Christ the poor man is offered freedom now to rebel against that which makes him other than human." --James Cone


As the sixties progressed, James Cone felt torn by a feeling of "twoness." He was an AME preacher, a Christian theologian - and a student of Malcolm X.


Cover of Cone's Black Theology & Black Power.

Cover of Cone's Black Theology
and Black Power.


Filled with rage against the white church and his own inability to see God at work during the turbulent times, Cone sat down in 1967 to write the essay "Christianity and Black Power." It marked the beginning of a theological journey that would be a radical break with his upbringing and education.

He rented a room at his brother's church in Little Rock, Arkansas, and, in just one month, wrote Black Theology and Black Power. Cone felt himself channeling the Holy Spirit as he wrote. "I just felt myself driven by the truth, the truth of black history and culture and what it had to say about the nature of black faith in the struggle for justice".

His book revolutionized the black church and articulated a way for black ministers to be relevant in the ongoing struggle. Black Theology taught that the Christian gospel carried a message of freedom, and that Jesus was the Liberator, fighting on the side of the oppressed throughout the world - particularly in the United States. Black Theology placed Christ firmly in the ghetto, and gave blacks the power, the "soul," to "destroy white racism."


James Cone

James Cone


Cone, like Malcolm X, attacked the white mainstream religious community for its racist interpretation of Christianity, but he also reproached the black Christian community - as had Martin Luther King - for accepting that white interpretation and for not thinking more critically about Christianity in their lives. Mainstream theologians vilified Cone as a racist, but his theory ignited a re-examination of the role of Christianity in the lives and struggles of black people.

"To be black in America has little to do with skin color," Cone wrote. "To be black means that your heart, your soul, your mind, and your body are where the dispossessed are… Being reconciled to God does not mean that one's skin is physically black. It essentially depends on the color of your heart, soul, and mind."

Throughout the country, young preachers read the book, and then scoured black history. They found inspiration in the writings and life examples of Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, Henry Highland Garnet, David Walker, and Henry McNeal Turner. Their calls for socio-political freedom through rebellion against slavery and cultural liberation through such claims as Turner's 1898 statement that "God is a Negro" were similar to the calls and aims of Black Power. They found that they were part of a deep tradition in which freedom fighters used their faith in the Gospel to further the struggle for black liberation. Their searching led to revisions in church worship styles and re-engaged the church in social activism.




People of Faith


 James Cone
James Cone

 Albert Cleage
Albert Cleage


Did You Know?



Feminists attacked black liberation theology.
more


The Black Christian Nationalist Movement was inaugurated as an independent denomination in 1972.
more

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