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The New Black Gods

Arthur Huff Fauset and the Study of African American Religions

Edited by Edward E. Curtis IV and Danielle Brune Sigler

Publication Year: 2009

Taking the influential work of Arthur Huff Fauset as a starting point to break down the false dichotomy that exists between mainstream and marginal, a new generation of scholars offers fresh ideas for understanding the religious expressions of African Americans in the United States. Fauset's 1944 classic, Black Gods of the Metropolis, launched original methods and theories for thinking about African American religions as modern, cosmopolitan, and democratic. The essays in this collection show the diversity of African American religion in the wake of the Great Migration and consider the full field of African American religion from Pentecostalism to Black Judaism, Black Islam, and Father Divine's Peace Mission Movement. As a whole, they create a dynamic, humanistic, and thoroughly interdisciplinary understanding of African American religious history and life. This book is essential reading for anyone who studies the African American experience.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Religion in North America


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pp. vi-vii

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pp. ix-xii

In 1986, we launched the Religion in North America series at Indiana University Press with the publication of William L. Andrews’s edited collection Sisters of the Spirit. The book, with its careful introduction by Andrews, contained the nineteenth-century autobiographies of African Americans Jarena Lee, Zilpha Elaw, and Julia A. J. Foote. ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

In creating this volume, contributors circulated their first drafts via e-mail, and then brought their comments and suggestions on each other’s work to a weekend writers’ meeting at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in April 2007. ...

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pp. 1-12

As much as W. E. B. Du Bois and Carter G. Woodson, Arthur Huff Fauset deserves a place in the pantheon of African American religious studies’ founding figures, for more than any early scholar, Fauset inscribed a vision of the modern, cosmopolitan black religious subject. This collection of chapters is about much more than restoring a neglected scholar’s image ...

Part 1 . New Religious Movement(s) of the Great Migration Era

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pp. 13

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One Fauset’s (Missing) Pentecostals: Church Mothers, Remaking Respectability, and Religious Modernism

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pp. 15-30

In the final version of Black Gods of the Metropolis, Arthur Huff Fauset excluded the story of a ‘‘Mrs. W,’’ a Pentecostal, ‘‘middle aged colored woman’’ who had moved to Philadelphia, like so many other African Americans, as part of the Great Migration. It is a telling exclusion since Mrs. W was likely more representative of fellow migrants ...

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Two ‘‘Grace Has Given God a Vacation’’: The History and Development of the Theology of the United House of Prayer of All People

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pp. 31-48

Fauset was interested in many of the aspects of the House of Prayer that he had captured in these notes: Grace’s charismatic spiritual power, his followers’ attitudes toward him, and the emphasis on money and fundraising during worship services. His notes also hinted at the skepticism with which Fauset and others ...

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Three ‘‘Chased out of Palestine’’: Prophet Cherry’s Church of God and Early Black Judaisms in the United States

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pp. 49-69

Against a backdrop of burgeoning black nationalism, black Jewish communities began appearing in major cities in the early twentieth century. Viewed by many as merely another peculiarity within the already diverse spectrum of African American religions, their emergence garnered little early attention from black or white media. ...

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Four Debating the Origins of the Moorish Science Temple: Toward a New Cultural History

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pp. 70-90

Established in 1925 by Timothy Drew, the Chicago-based Moorish Science Temple (MST) taught that African Americans were Moors from northwest Africa. Like all other Asiatic nonwhite peoples, argued their founder, their proper religion was Islam. Noble Drew Ali, as the prophet became known, insisted ...

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Five ‘‘The Consciousness of God’s Presence Will Keep You Well, Healthy, Happy, and Singing’’: The Tradition of Innovation in the Music of Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement

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pp. 91-115

I first read Arthur Huff Fauset’s account of Father Divine in the 1980s, as a doctoral student at Fauset’s alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. Don Yoder, the dean of American folklife studies, liked to use Black Gods of the Metropolis in his classes, including ‘‘Sects and Cults in American Religion.’’ ...

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Six ‘‘A True Moslem Is a True Spiritualist’’: Black Orientalism and Black Gods of the Metropolis

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pp. 116-142

Father George W. Hurley, who called himself ‘‘The Black God of the Aquarian Age’’ and who founded what would become the nation’s largest black Spiritual church, the Universal Hagar’s Spiritual Association (UHSA), published a remarkable pamphlet in 1930 called ‘‘Arabian Science.’’ ...

Part 2 . Resurrecting Fauset’s Vision for African American Religious Studies

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pp. 143

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Seven Religion Proper and Proper Religion: Arthur Fauset and the Study of African American Religions

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pp. 145-170

When Arthur Fauset set out to examine African American religions in the northern urban centers of the twentieth century, he was necessarily entering upon the site of multiple contestations. Fauset’s objective was not to map what was characterized as ‘‘normative’’ religion; so, for instance, he was not studying the ‘‘Black Church.’’ ...

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Eight The Perpetual Primitive in African American Religious Historiography

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pp. 171-191

Singing, dancing, shouting, clapping the hands, etc., while generally characteristic of American Negro cult worship, are not essential features,’’ declared Arthur Huff Fauset in the ‘‘Summary of Findings’’ to his Black Gods of the Metropolis (1944).1 Among the many accomplishments of Fauset’s ethnography was his constant emphasis on the intellectual, ...

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Nine Turning African Americans into Rational Actors: The Important Legacy of Fauset’s Functionalism

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pp. 192-208

Most scholars are aware that Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North challenged anthropologist Melville Herskovits’s cultural continuity thesis, but few consider the merits of Fauset’s functionalist counterargument. In this quote from his summary of findings, ...

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Ten Defining the ‘‘Negro Problem’’ in Brazil: The Shifting Significance of Brazil’s African Heritage from the 1890s to the 1940s

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pp. 209-225

Arthur Huff Fauset’s Black Gods of the Metropolis was part of an extraordinary florescence of creative, intellectual, literary, and anthropological interest in the ‘‘New World Negro’’ in the first four decades of the twentieth century. Researchers in the United States, Brazil, and the Caribbean in this period turned their attention to various aspects ...

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Eleven Fauset and His Black Gods: Intersections with the Herskovits-Frazier Debate

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pp. 226-248

An enduring, far-reaching controversy erupted in the 1930s between Melville J. Herskovits and E. Franklin Frazier over the question of the degree of cultural continuity (or, as Frazier would emphasize, discontinuity) between contemporary African Americans and the African heritage of their ancestors ...

List of contributors

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pp. 249-250


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pp. 251-269

E-ISBN-13: 9780253004086
E-ISBN-10: 025300408X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253352828

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Religion in North America