Black Gods of the Metropolis

Black Gods of the Metropolis: Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North

ARTHUR HUFF FAUSET
Foreword by Barbara Dianne Savage
Introduction by John Szwed
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 152
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vkctp
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Black Gods of the Metropolis
    Book Description:

    Stemming from his anthropological field work among black religious groups in Philadelphia in the early 1940s, Arthur Huff Fauset believed it was possible to determine the likely direction that mainstream black religious leadership would take in the future, a direction that later indeed manifested itself in the civil rights movement. The American black church, according to Fauset and other contemporary researchers, provided the one place where blacks could experiment without hindrance in activities such as business, politics, social reform, and social expression. With detailed primary accounts of these early spiritual movements and their beliefs and practices,Black Gods of the Metropolisreveals the fascinating origins of such significant modern African American religious groups as the Nation of Islam as well as the role of lesser known and even forgotten churches in the history of the black community.In her new foreword, historian Barbara Dianne Savage discusses the relationship between black intellectuals and black religion, in particular the relationship between black social scientists and black religious practices during Fauset's time. She then explores the complexities of that relationship and its impact on the intellectual and political history of African American religion in general.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9067-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-xvi)
    Barbara Dianne Savage

    When the Philadelphia Anthropological Society sponsored the publication of Arthur Huff Fauset’sBlack Gods of the Metropolisin 1944, his fellow members at the Society considered him uniquely qualified to conduct a study of black religious cults in Philadelphia. “Himself partly of Negro origin,” the Society’s Publication Committee wrote in a foreword to the book, Fauset “was endowed for this study with a background, a point of view, and an entrée to the field which could never have been possessed by one of exclusively European tradition and descent.”¹

    By citing only his racial credentials without commenting on the study itself,...

  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
    John Szwed

    There is no more poorly understood area of Afro-American life than that of its churches, cults, and sects. Throughout the history of the black man in the United States, his churches have been the subject of fanciful speculation by scholars, sensationalists, reformers, entertainers, and bigots. All have seen these religious institutions in terms of their own preconceptions—as enemies of black liberation, as poor imitations of European religions, as static representations of the spiritual past of men, and so on.

    The beginning point for understanding any religious institution is at least elementary knowledge of its practices and beliefs. But it...

  5. AUTHOR’S NOTE TO THE PAPERBACK EDITION
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
    Arthur Huff Fauset
  6. I NEGRO RELIGIOUS CULTS IN THE URBAN NORTH
    (pp. 1-12)

    Harlem is not the only “Negro city within a city.” Philadelphia and Chicago both have Negro populations which exceed the total figures for such cities as Omaha and Richmond. Detroit and Cleveland are not far behind.

    Most of the whites in these municipalities find reasons for bypassing the Negro districts. They see black folk only at a distance. Their genuine knowledge of these people is quite remote.

    It is assumed, of course, that the lives of Negroes correspond to a pattern long made familiar and embellished in story and in song. They are said to be a carefree, happy-go-lucky folk,...

  7. II MT. SINAI HOLY CHURCH OF AMERICA, INC.
    (pp. 13-21)

    My wife and I were Baptists. My wife got zealous because she said she wanted to get nearer to the holy spirit and so she joined with Mt. Olive. That put my wife a step higher in Christianity than I was. This was not so good. So I studied and interviewed the holy people in order to even up things. One thing I noticed. Before my wife went into Mt. Sinai, she was always ill. She couldn’t have children. She always got very sick when she was pregnant, and we would lose the child and we would be about to...

  8. III United House of Prayer for All People (Bishop Grace)
    (pp. 22-30)

    I lived in Raleigh, North Carolina. I had been a Methodist for twenty-seven years, but I really didn’t know what the spirit of the Lord truly meant. I thought I knew, but I never had any experience like I got after I saw the light. It was like this: I had been going to the Methodist church, but Bishop Grace came through Raleigh. He performed miracles of healing. All kinds of people were healed. There was a blind woman. She couldn’t see a thing for five years, but Daddy Grace set up his tent and she came to his meeting...

  9. IV CHURCH OF GOD (BLACK JEWS)
    (pp. 31-40)

    Mrs. I. is an intelligent woman about thirty-five years of age, married and the mother of two children. She joined Prophet Cherry’s church about six years ago. She formerly was a member of a holiness church, but, according to her, their worship is a “tale,” just a fake. The business of speaking in tongues is a joke. All the whooping and yelling, dancing, falling out and the like is indecent. She joined Prophet Cherry’s church after her husband. She and her children observed the Passover all of last week. Every day they stayed in church from 9 a.m. to about...

  10. V MOORISH SCIENCE TEMPLE OF AMERICA
    (pp. 41-51)

    H. R. was born in Louisiana. From the age of seven years he could not believe in Christianity. At a church meeting one day he saw his mother fall out. All about her they said, “Loosen her corset!” He thought she was dying. But she recovered all right. A year or so later he asked her, “What was the matter?” She said she was just happy, that’s all. He hated all that foolishness. Worst of all he hated the hypocrisy of the Christians. He wanted to be with his own and he never was satisfied until he became a Moslem....

  11. VI FATHER DIVINE PEACE MISSION MOVEMENT
    (pp. 52-67)

    Sing Happy is a tall, dark-brown-skinned, well-preserved Negro of about seventy years of age, with short gray hair and good teeth. He has a very strong baritone voice which is well known among the followers of Father Divine who join in the singing at Rockland Palace. One day many years ago Sing Happy heard Father call out to him in his apartment, “Happy!” He had been busy doing some small chore when suddenly he heard the voice call out to him. For a moment he could not imagine what or who it was. He rushed to the stairway to see,...

  12. VII COMPARATIVE STUDY
    (pp. 68-75)

    The following order probably represents the degree of conformity of the cults studied with the more orthodox evangelical Christian denominations:

    Mt. Sinai Holy Church

    United House of Prayer for All People

    Church of God (Black Jews)

    Father Divine Peace Mission

    Moorish Science Temple of America

    Mt. Sinai and United House of Prayer

    These two cults are considered together because in many respects they are similar, particularly with regard to their organizational forms and religious practices.

    There is little substantial difference in fundamental belief between these two cults and the orthodox churches. Thus there is a belief in the Holy Trinity...

  13. VIII WHY THE CULTS ATTRACT
    (pp. 76-86)

    What is there about the cult which draws to it the thousands of adherents from our large northern centers?

    As is to be expected, different people are attracted to a cult for different reasons. This fact is reflected in a difference in emphasis in the various cults. But there is one main attraction which stands out in all cults, making a kind of common bond among them: it is the desire to get closer to some supernatural power, be it God, the Holy Spirit, or Allah.

    From the testimony of members of the various cults,¹ it becomes clear that another...

  14. IX THE CULT AS A FUNCTIONAL INSTITUTION
    (pp. 87-95)

    Reference has been made to the rôle of the Negro cult in relieving and releasing psychological tensions, particularly in the case of Negroes who are confronted for the first time with the problems of northern urban life. It would be natural for cult leaders to recognize the functional possibilities of the cult mechanism along various lines; in fact it would be difficult for them to eschew the temptation to accomplish various ends by means of the cult which under a different social order in our country would appertain to more secular institutions.

    We are not surprised therefore to observe a...

  15. X THE NEGRO AND HIS RELIGION
    (pp. 96-106)

    The religiosity of the Negro often is taken for granted. Not only is this a popular opinion, but important social scientists intimate and even emphasize the fact.

    To take two outstanding examples, there is the sociologist, Robert E. Park, who states,

    I assume … the reason the Negro so readily and eagerly took over from the white man his heaven and his apocalyptic visions was because these materials met the demands of his peculiarracial temperament[italics mine]….¹

    Herskovits, the anthropologist, has been quoted above as stating:

    Underlying the life of the American Negro is a deep religiousbent[italics...

  16. XI SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
    (pp. 107-110)

    The data in this study, while admittedly limited, offer the following indications:

    1. It is a fair inference that the apparent over-emphasis by the American Negro in the religious sphere is related to the comparatively meager participation of Negroes in other institutional forms of American culture, such as business, politics, and industry, a condition which is bound up intimately with the prevailing custom of racial dichotomy which restricts the normal participation of Negroes in many avenues of American life. On the other hand, the study does not present adequate grounds for believing that there is an instinctive religious “bent” or “temperament”...

  17. Appendices
    (pp. 111-122)
  18. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 123-126)