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

Judith Weisenfeld. New York Univ., $35 (368p) ISBN 978-1-4798-8880-1
In a comprehensive study of the formation of early 20th-century black religious movements, Weisenfeld (Hollywood Be Thy Name), a professor in Princeton’s department of religion, examines individual and social experiences that helped define racial and religious identities. She focuses on the Moorish Science Temple, the Nation of Islam, Father Divine’s Peace Mission Movement, and Ethiopian Hebrew congregations that flourished as black Southerners and African immigrants settled in northern cities. The popularity of the movements came from the appeal of their leaders as well as their ability to redefine religious and racial identity. These movements offered new ways to interpret history and define racial identity for people traditionally labeled “Negro.” Variations in religious belief, color of skin, dress, dietary restrictions, and views on marriage and sex broadened discussion in communities and gave identity to those who were outside of traditional black Protestant life. The historical information (supplemented with photos) is absorbing, thanks to modern relevance; the term African-American, for example, is the latest in a long line of racial identifiers. Weisenfeld’s wide-ranging study is eloquent yet succinct, perfect for academics and general readers alike. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/12/2016
Release date: 02/07/2017
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