Apostles of Race: Religion and Black Racial Identity in the Urban North, 1920-1950


ACLS Fellowship Program




This book explores the intersections of religion and racial identity among people of African descent in the early twentieth century urban North. Focusing on the Moorish Science Temple, Father Divine's Peace Mission Movement, congregations of Ethiopian Hebrews, and the Nation of Islam, all of which emerged in the context of urbanization, migration, and immigration, the project charts how members promoted alternative understandings of black racial identity and sacred destiny to the dominant narratives provided by mainstream black Protestant churches and in broader American society. In addition, the project examines how these new religio-racial identities shaped members’ conceptions of their bodies, families, communities, and political sensibilities. Rather than operating at the margins of public and community culture, their religious work to contest conventional racial categorization, both discursively and in embodied practice, was part of a broader set of discussions in black America at the time about the nature of racial identity.