The Utopian Dreams and Practical Politics of Father Divine

The Father Divine movement prefigured an egalitarian future without racial segregation or economic inequality.

Lecture Description

African American religious leader, Father Divine, founded the twentieth century’s most successful utopian community. By 1939 his Peace Mission movement was the largest property owner in Harlem, founded extensions throughout the United States and abroad, and had nearly a million followers. This talk seeks to recover the political power of the Father Divine movement. Early twentieth century black religious movements, including Father Divine’s Peace Mission, offered alternative political and racial identities through religious teaching. Father Divine also created a cooperative empire during the Great Depression that provided ample food and housing for followers and other community members. Like other civil rights pioneers Father Divine drew from Gandhi’s teachings on nonviolence and promoted cooperatives as a just alternative to competitive capitalism. And utopian visionaries like Father Divine rejected segregation and nurtured interracial fellowship.

CATEGORIES

African American Religion

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