Judith Weisenfeld is the Agate Brown and George L. Collord Professor of Religion at Princeton University. Her research focuses on African American religious history, with particular interest in migration and urbanization, film and popular culture, gender and sexuality, new religious movements, and the intersections of religion and race. Her books include New World a Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity during the Great Migration (2016), which won the 2017 Albert J. Raboteau Prize for the Best Book in Africana Religions, Hollywood Be Thy Name: African American Religion in American Film, 1929–1949 (2007), and African American Women and Christian Activism: New York's Black YWCA, 1905–1945 (1997). Her essays have been published in the Journal of Africana Religions, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, American Religion, and Religion & American Culture, among others. Her current research explores the intersections of psychiatry and African American religions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She is an elected member of the Society of American Historians and an elected fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Father Divine's interracial, sex-segregated, communal movement captured the imagination of the American public in its heyday of the 1930s and 1940s when it counted thousands of followers who believed that Divine was God in a body, Christ returned to earth. In this lecture, Weisenfeld explores popular responses to the movement's theology of sexuality, often in the form of salacious conjecture about race and sexuality in what most characterized as a 'cult', and consider how devoted members understood the relationship between race and sexuality in what they believed was the Kingdom of God on earth.