Book Discussion on New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity During the Great Migration

Labyrinth Books Event with AAS Co-Sponsorship
March 9, 2017 6:00 PM
Labyrinth Books, 122 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ
Labyrinth Books Event with AAS Co-Sponsorship
March 9, 2017 6:00 PM
Labyrinth Books, 122 Nassau Street, Princeton, NJ
Professor Judith Weisenfeld discusses her new book in conversation with her colleague in Religion, Professor Wallace Best
Judith Weisenfeld and Wallace Best

When Joseph Nathaniel Beckles registered for the draft in the 1942,  he rejected the racial categories presented to him and persuaded the registrar to cross out the check mark she had placed next to Negro and substitute “Ethiopian Hebrew.”  “God did not make us Negroes,” declared religious leaders in black communities of the early twentieth-century urban North. They insisted that so-called Negroes are, in reality, Ethiopian Hebrews, Asiatic Muslims, or raceless children of God. Rejecting conventional American racial classification, many black southern migrants and immigrants from the Caribbean embraced these alternative visions of black history, racial identity, and collective future, thereby reshaping the black religious and racial landscape.

Focusing on the Moorish Science Temple, the Nation of Islam, Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement, and a number of congregations of Ethiopian Hebrews, Judith Weisenfeld argues that the appeal of these groups lay not only in the new religious opportunities membership provided, but also in the novel ways they formulated a religio-racial identity. Arguing that members of these groups understood their religious and racial identities as divinely-ordained and inseparable, the book examines how this sense of self shaped their conceptions of their bodies, families, religious and social communities, space and place, and political sensibilities.

Weisenfeld draws on extensive archival research and incorporates a rich array of sources to highlight the experiences of average members. The book demonstrates that the efforts by members of these movements to contest conventional racial categorization contributed to broader discussions in black America about the nature of racial identity and the collective future of black people that still resonate today.

Latest in the AAS 21 Repertoire

The Pulse of Black Life in the Long 19th Century
Autumn Womack, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
Rethinking Empire and Democracy
Eddie S. Glaude, Jr., Reena N. Goldthree
The Formation of ‘Religio-Racial’ Identity
Judith Weisenfeld, Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
How Black Americans See Discrimination
National Public Radio

Upcoming Events

Screening of 'Gook' (2017)
Mar 29, 2018 @ 4:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Big Chief Wears a Golden Crown: Art of the New Orleans Black Masking Indians
Apr 3, 2018 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Book Discussion on 'May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem'
Apr 5, 2018 @ 6:00 pm
The AAS James Baldwin Lecture with Brian E. Herrera
Apr 12, 2018 @ 4:30 pm
Shadows of the Prison: 5th Annual SPEAR Conference
Apr 13, 2018 - Apr 14, 2018
Princeton Research Day
May 10, 2018

African American Studies for the 21st Century

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  1. 'The Making of the Modern Black Diaspora' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Joshua Guild 35:17
  2. 'The Pulse of Black Life in the Long 19th Century' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Autumn Womack 30:42
  3. 'Rethinking Empire and Democracy' Reena N. Goldthree, Eddie S. Glaude Jr. 44:49
  4. 'The Formation of Religio-Racial Identity' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Judith Weisenfeld 47:32
  5. 'What Was African American Marriage?' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Tera Hunter 44:59
  6. 'Before Cornel West, After Cornel West' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Cornel West 52:46
  7. 'An Insistence on Not Being Discouraged' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Chika Okeke-Agulu 55:19
  8. 'A Through Line for African American Studies' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Imani Perry 44:07
  9. 'Activism and Risk in the Face of Trump' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Asanni York, Destiny Crockett 43:02
  10. 'Langston Hughes, Religious Thinker' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Wallace Best 45:50
  11. 'Convergences and Dissonance' Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Keeanga-Yamahatta Taylor, Naomi Murakawa, & Imani Perry 60:08