Skip to Main Content
James K. Humphrey and the Sabbath-Day Adventists

James K. Humphrey and the Sabbath-Day Adventists

R. Clifford Jones
Copyright Date: 2006
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    James K. Humphrey and the Sabbath-Day Adventists
    Book Description:

    InJames K. Humphrey and the Sabbath-Day Adventists, R. Clifford Jones tells the story of this important black religious figure and his attempt to bring about self-determination for twentieth-century blacks in New York City.

    Humphrey was a Baptist minister who joined the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church shortly after arriving in New York City from Jamaica at the turn of the twentieth century. A leader of uncommon competency and charisma, Humphrey functioned as an SDA minister in Harlem during the time the community became the black capital of the United States. Though he led his congregation to a position of prominence within the SDA denomination, Humphrey came to believe the black experience in Adventism was one of disenfranchisement. When he refused to alter his plans for a utopian community for blacks in the face of dissent from SDA church leaders, Humphrey's ministerial credentials were revoked and his congregation dissolved. Subsequently, Humphrey established an independent black religious organization, the United Sabbath-Day Adventists.

    This book rescues the Sabbath-Day Adventists from obscurity. Humphrey's break with the Seventh-day Adventists provides clues to the state of black-white relationships in the denomination at the time. It set the stage for the creation of the separate administrative structure for blacks established by the SDA church in 1945. This history of a minister and his church demonstrates the struggles of small, independent, black congregations in the urban community during the twentieth century.

    R. Clifford Jones is an associate professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. He is the editor ofPreaching with Powerand has authored scholarly articles on the emergence of the Sabbath-Day Adventists.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-150-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    “I have determined, my friends, that like the apostle Paul, I shall allow nothing to separate me from the love of God—nothing! . . . In 1905, a brother came to my house and urged me to cut loose from this denomination. . . . I refused then to do it, and I refuse now to do it.”¹ Uttering these words with conviction and clarity, James Kemuel Humphrey, pastor of the First Harlem Seventh-day Adventist Church in New York City, clutched the pulpit and did all he could to prevent tears from flowing down his face. The occasion was...

  4. Chapter 1 The Utopia Park Affair
    (pp. 14-35)

    November 2, 1929, was a historic day for James Kemuel Humphrey and the members of the First Harlem Seventh-day Adventist church. That Sabbath, Humphrey preached his last sermon as pastor of the flagship congregation of the Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The title of his sermon, which was based on the first of the Ten Commandments recorded in Exodus 20, was “Thou Shalt Have No Other God,” and for reasons that he never divulged or never became known, Humphrey cried throughout the sermon. It is unclear whether Adventist church leaders were present for the worship service at First...

  5. Chapter 2 Assessing the Utopia Park Affair
    (pp. 36-48)

    The revocation of the ministerial credentials of James K. Humphrey and the expulsion of First Harlem Seventh-day Adventist from the Greater New York Conference were unfortunate occurrences bemoaned by all who were involved in the events that led up to them. Certainly, Humphrey and his loyalists would have preferred to remain a part of the Seventh-day Adventist organization in spite of what they saw as its shortcomings and pitfalls relative to the race issue. The tears that seasoned Humphrey’s sermon on November 2, 1929, officially his last day as pastor of First Harlem, indicate that at the very least Humphrey...

  6. Chapter 3 The Tenor of the Times
    (pp. 49-81)

    The first three decades of the twentieth century constituted a critical period in the history of people of African descent in the United States. During the era, thousands of African Americans abandoned the South for the urban centers of the North because of Jim Crow practices that made a mockery of their civil liberties. After World War I, America was a bonanza of optimism and hope, the feeling of euphoria permeating all of the nation’s racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. For some American Blacks, the war had provided opportunities for economic enhancement, as the wartime economy required labor previously provided...

  7. Chapter 4 The Black Experience in Adventism, 1840–1930
    (pp. 82-112)

    From the start of the Millerite Movement around 1840 to the time James K. Humphrey left the Seventh-day Adventist church in 1930, the African American experience in Seventh-day Adventism was a saga of paradox, ambiguity, and ambivalence. Born in the midst of the Second Awakening, the Adventist movement and later the Seventh-day Adventist denomination both demonstrated uncertainty, if not confusion, in dealing with the Blacks who filtered into their ranks in myriad ways. Adventists lacked a coherent, strategic plan to evangelize Blacks, hedged on declaring their position on the race issue shortly after their official organization at the height of...

  8. Chapter 5 The Church History of the Sabbath-Day Adventists
    (pp. 113-160)

    If the decade of the 1920s was a period of vigor and optimism in Harlem, New York, that of the 1930s was full of uncertainty and tension. With the stock market crash of 1929, not only Harlem but the entire United States was shoved into an economic crisis that tested the American people. On that fateful October day in 1929 the “Roaring Twenties” gave way to “Hard Times.” Truly, the 1930s were turbulent years for America, with the Great Depression at home contributing to the economic and political instability around the world.¹ It was in this crucible of economic and...

  9. Chapter 6 The Sabbath-Day Adventist Church after Humphrey
    (pp. 161-178)

    Although James K. Humphrey gave up the leadership of the Sabbath-Day Adventist organization in 1947, five years before his death, almost from the moment they splintered attempts to reconcile Sabbath-Day Adventists with Seventh-day Adventists have been made by both groups.

    One major factor that frustrated the early attempts at reconciliation was the property Sabbath-Day Adventists believed was rightfully theirs. Property ownership had played no small role in the break of 1929, and it was only after the local conference, union, and General Conference officials had agreed on the night of November 2, 1929, to turn over the title of First...

  10. Chapter 7 Summary and Conclusions
    (pp. 179-183)

    Scholars have stressed the dynamic role that religion has played in African American history. Robert T. Handy, for example, has stated that religion has been so important in African American history that any credible understanding of African American history calls for careful attention to religion.¹ In a similar vein, C. Eric Lincoln avows that religion was from the beginning the organizing principle of the Black experience in America.² As such, a study of a group of African Americans that does not contemplate their religion is destined to be incomplete, if not problematic. In this study, an investigation of the Sabbath-Day...

  11. Appendix A. Fundamental Beliefs of Sabbath-Day Adventists
    (pp. 184-186)
    R. Leo Soaries
  12. Appendix B. Constitution and By-Laws of the New York Sabbath-Day Adventist Church
    (pp. 187-196)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 197-231)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 232-242)
  15. Index
    (pp. 243-250)