Black Liberation in the Black Church

Brace yourselves Southern Oregon, because the Why We Can’t Wait challenge is but an appetizer to the cause! Yours truly is working with Black Alliance & Social Empowerment (B.A.S.E) on the project of reading the book 'Why We Can’t Wait' written by Dr. King and comparing the civil rights movement to what we see today. Change starts with action and I encourage everyone to read the book as a stepping stone in their research of other America. With that being said let's talk about the role of the Black church from enslavement to liberation movements because have you seen what’s happened in the Georgia Senate race? We can’t just overlook the historical significance of a pastor from the spiritual home of Dr. King competing with a Senator that confidently poses in pictures with known white supremacists.

It’s no accident that the key players from Reconstruction to Black Power have been men of faith. In 1865, Reverend J.W. Wood of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church introduced a series of reforms considered “radical” including the right to vote for Black people, “Without exaggeration, it can be stated that almost every Black minister was something of a politician, and that every aspiring Black politician had to be something of a minister.”(Marable, 2015) The foundation of modern Black politics rests with the Black church and in 1910 there was a decrease in clergy. It was W.E.B Dubois that stated the Black church was an expression of the “Negro’s soul” and organizational ability but he, along with other key figures, had choice criticisms of the church.(Marable, 2015) Historians and sociologists alike that specialize in 20th century Black liberationist ideologies, have traced the ambivalences that set Black Christianity apart from the mainstream and debate on whether it’s been an obstacle or a blessing in the struggle for liberation. V.F. Calverton for example, declared in 1927 that the Judeo-Christian ethics of submissive behavior and tolerance towards Earthly oppressors only sustained white racism and exploitation of labor power from the Black proletariat. An unsettling number of ministers were silent as Dubois, Paul Robeson, and other socialists and progressives were arrested with tarnished reputations but the buy out of other Black ministers was the most despicable! If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to follow the money which always pays corporate interests instead of the laborer. Henry Ford was among many capitalists of his time to pay off Black ministers for their influence to convince the Black working-class to accept low pay and reject unionism. Tokenism is no stranger to the pulpit, so the real question is: when will the general population focus on the politics of the person instead of their color?

In the early stages of my personal involvement with the cause, I came across a unique Christian bigot with the sexist, transphobic, and homophobic attitude to match. Interacting with him on social media made me realize my own intersectionality and how this bigot’s melanated skin is more detrimental than a Black Trump supporter. He boasted that he rejects Western Christian doctrine because the Ethiopian bible was the true path as he “corrects me on my learned self-hatred.” The doctrine that he’s referring to dates back to when the “Ethiops” joined the Crusaders in the war against Islam and just like a toxic breakup, the Europeans ghosted the Africans after the fact as the slave traders made their big debut. As a Black woman in America I realize that my heroes will contrast dramatically from that of male counterparts, both Black and white. While W.E.B Dubois could be labeled as the feminist of his time, he still talked about the emancipation of women in his essays as he invited Margaret Sanger to contribute to the pages of his periodicals. Margaret Sanger was the peak of white feminism that’s responsible for the Negro Project. This “ally” used Black stereotypes in order to reduce fertility in African American women. Religious Black separatists often referred to her work in later years to sway my melanated sisters from participating, and who could blame them? But as Dubois noted, “The mass of ignorant Negroes still breed carelessly and disastrously, so that the increase among Negroes, even more than the increase among whites, is from that portion of the population least intelligent and fit, and least able to rear their children properly.” (Washington, 2006) Thanks to Dubois’ advice Sanger recruited ministers like Dr. King to promote such a project.

The liberation of Black people has never been so cut and dry, but the deliberate lack of knowledge within American textbooks ought to be incriminating. Replacing representation with tokenism should’ve been clear to us from Kamala Harris to Kelly Loeffler and from ministers on capitalist payroll to Ben Carson. We are still met with indifference as women of color and members of the LGBT+ community on the topic of basic human rights including adequate access to medical care. We may have avoided the full cancelation of “democracy” by voting out Donald Trump but the Black caucus has not forgotten the “jungle” that Joe Biden thinks we belong in.


How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America Manning Marable 2015.

Medical Apartheid Harriet A. Washington 2006.

Black Liberation George M. Fredrickson 1995.

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