May 4, 2018 - Vol. 1, Issue 31
The Power of Black Liberation Theology
Above: Photograph of Reverend Dr. James H. Cone. 1
Front cover of Black Theology & Black Power 2
Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr.
Reverend Dr. Jacquelyn Grant
For this week’s issue, we reflect upon the legacy of Reverend Dr. James H. Cone , who passed away last weekend at the age of seventy-nine. 3

Dr. Cone’s seminal work in black liberation theology provided a “religious counterpart” to the secular Black Power movement. 4 In his interview, Dr. Cone described the intent behind black theology, in the context of both the Black Power and civil rights movements of the 1960s and ‘70s: “I wanted to show that we have to introduce a religious dimension to Black Power, because it is such a positive force in empowering black people to take charge of their lives and of their identity.” 5 [ James H. Cone, THMDA 2.7.1 ] .

Black theology re-situated Christianity in the African American experience, and challenged normative white representations of both God and Jesus Christ. As Dr. Cone and other theologians such as Albert Cleage, Jr. and J. Deotis Roberts agreed, “the Christian God actively championed the disadvantaged and…his spirit resided with those who fought exploitation.” 6 Such views upended the white Christian establishment, which, throughout U.S. history, had relied on biblical scripture to justify the oppression and enslavement of African Americans. Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. of Riverside Church in New York City underscored the significance of Dr. Cone’s teachings: “It was shocking at first…Jim Cone reversed the tables and said if you don’t recognize it, Jesus is black…He ain’t this blue eyed Jesus that we see in these various paintings. If your religion has not dealt with blackness, it’s suspect anyway.” 7 [ Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr., THMDA 1.4.4 ] .

While Dr. Cone’s 1969 text, Black Theology & Black Power , primarily addressed racial injustice, his later works dealt with issues of gender and class equality. 8 Womanist theologian Reverend Dr. Jacquelyn Grant , who founded the Center for Black Women in Church & Society, also challenged “the historic arrogance of white theology,” and offered of liberation theology’s importance: “There is a direct relationship between what it is we say we believe and how we structure our church and our society.” 9 [ Reverend Dr. Jacquelyn Grant, THMDA 1.5.6 ] . To this end, theology can be a tool of oppression or a powerful force for change; and in any racist society, a true liberation of religion, and specifically of Christianity, is required for the advancement of all people.
For our subscribing institutions, check out our curated playlist of stories that accompanies the above feature. To do so, copy and paste the below URL to the tail end of your university’s specific URL for The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. For example: [Your Institution URL] + [Playlist Tail]

Playlist Tail: /stories/6;IDList=74181%2C7027%2C288092%2C252904%2C187181%2C331667%2C664449%2C290076%2C18364%2C571738%2C571737%2C626034%2C629884%2C629883;ListTitle=Black%20Liberation%20Theology
A Musical Evening With Harry Lennix
This past Wednesday, The HistoryMakers presented the annual An Evening With PBS-TV taping in Chicago, Illinois at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago. 10 We were thrilled to honor renowned film, television, and stage actor Harry Lennix, who currently plays FBI assistant director of counterterrorism Harold Cooper on NBC's The Blacklist . Mr. Lennix was joined throughout the program by the show's musical director Terisa Griffin , and vocalists Dee Alexander , Felicia Fields and Lynne Jordan . The production numbers included Nina Simone’s “Four Women”; the gospel spiritual “Oh Mary, Don’t You Weep”; and "A Heart Is a House for Love" from the 1991 feature film The Five Heartbeats, which starred Mr. Lennix. Seven talented youth from Chicago’s Kenwood Academy also graced the stage, as they demonstrated their wholehearted affinity and aptitude for the theater.

Congratulations to all of the performers, and thank you to our HistoryMakers and guests who were in attendance. Stay tuned for the taping's release!
Please share with us your stories of how you incorporate The HistoryMakers Digital Archive into your curriculum and research. We'd love to hear from you!

Our apologies for an error in last week's newsletter:
The Honorable John W. Peavy, Jr. was a state court judge who served the 246th District Court of Texas.
This week, 14 new interviews were added to The HistoryMakers Digital Archive:

Mickey Stevenson

Music executive Mickey Stevenson (1937 - ) was the head of artists and repertoire at Motown Records.

Dr. Sharon Malone

Obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Sharon Malone (1959 - ) practiced in the Washington, D.C. area for over twenty years.
Gus Solomons jr

Dancer and choreographer Gus Solomons jr (1938 - ) created over 165 pieces for his company, Solomons Company Dance. He was known for his analytical approach, architectural concepts and use of video media.
Michael A. Cummings

Quilter Michael A. Cummings (1945 - ) was an internationally renowned textile artist, with work in collections at the Brooklyn Museum, California African American Museum, Schomburg Center and Renwick Gallery.
Valerie Wilson Wesley

Author Valerie Wilson Wesley (1947 - ) served as a former executive editor of Essence magazine, and was the author of the Tamara Hayle mystery series.
Bobby Bennett

Radio dj Bobby Bennett (1943 - 2015) worked at several radio stations in Washington, D.C. from the 1960s to the 1990s. He also created the Soul Street channel for XM Satellite Radio.
Art Norman

Broadcast journalist Art Norman (1947 - ) worked as a reporter, anchor and special contributor for Chicago’s WMAQ-TV station for over thirty years. He received six Emmy Awards for his news coverage.
Jean Boone

Newspaper publishing executive Jean Boone (1943 - ) founded the Richmond Free Press with her husband, Raymond Boone, Sr., and was named publisher after his death in 2014.

Charles M. Blow

Journalist Charles M. Blow (1970 - ) served as The New York Times’ graphics department head, as well as the paper’s first visual op-ed columnist. His memoir, Fire Shut Up in My Bones , was published in 2014.
The Honorable Roger L. Gregory

Chief appellate judge The Honorable Roger L. Gregory (1953 - ) was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in 2001, and became the court's first African American chief judge in 2016.
The Honorable Barrington D. Parker, Jr.

Federal circuit court judge The Honorable Barrington D. Parker, Jr. (1944 - ) served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 2001.

Matrice Ellis-Kirk

Investment banker Matrice Ellis-Kirk (1961 - ) served as an investment banker with Apex Securities for several years before becoming an executive search agent with RSR Partners. Ellis-Kirk also served as the first African American first lady of Dallas, Texas.
Dominique Wilkins

Dominique Wilkins (1960 - ) was a nine-time NBA All-Star, World Champion and Hall of Fame small forward, and spent most of his career with the Atlanta Hawks.

Gabriella E. Morris

Foundation chief executive Gabriella E. Morris (1956 - ) served as president of the Prudential Foundation for nearly ten years and contributed to numerous boards and committees in the Newark, New Jersey area.
1. BANNER PHOTO: Photograph of Reverend Dr. James H. Cone. Accessed May 4, 2018.
2. Image of the Black Theology & Black Power (1969) front cover. Accessed May 4, 2018.,204,203,200_.jpg.
3. Smith, Harrison, “James H. Cone, founder of black liberation theology, dies at 79.” The Washington Post, April 30, 2018. Accessed May 4, 2018. .
4. Calhoun-Brown, Allison, “The Image of God: Black Theology and Racial Empowerment in the African American Community,” Review of Religious Research 40, no. 3 (March 1999): 197-212.
5. James H. Cone (The HistoryMakers A2006.004), interviewed by Shawn Wilson, May 10, 2006, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 2, tape 7, story 1, James H. Cone reflects upon the acceptance and relevance of black theology.
6. Blum, Edward J., “‘There Won’t Be Any Rich People in Heaven’: The Black Christ, White Hypocrisy, and the Gospel According to W.E.B. Du Bois,” The Journal of African American History 90, no. 4 (Autumn 2005): 368-386.
7. Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes (The HistoryMakers A2016.046), interviewed by Harriette Cole, September 21, 2016, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 4, story 4, Reverend Dr. James A. Forbes, Jr. talks about black theology.
8. Cone, James H., Preface to God of the Oppressed . Orbis Books, 1997.
9. Reverend Dr. Jacquelyn Grant (The HistoryMakers A2003.183), interviewed by Larry Crowe, August 12, 2003, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive. Session 1, tape 5, story 6, Reverend Dr. Jacquelyn Grant challenges the notion of white theology as being normative.
10. Photograph of A Musical Evening With Harry Lennix , taken by Antonio Dickey at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, May 2, 2018.
Spot an error in The HistoryMakers Digital Archive ? We want to fix it! Send a brief description of the error to:
We're here to help! Please direct questions about The HistoryMakers Digital Archive to:
Browse our collection at: