The Black Coptic Church: Race and Imagination in a New Religion (Paperback)
Provides an illuminating look at the diverse world of Black religious life in North America, focusing particularly outside of mainstream Christian churchesFrom the Moorish Science Temple to the Peace Mission Movement of Father Divine to the Commandment Keepers sect of Black Judaism, myriad Black new religious movements developed during the time of the Great Migration. Many of these stood outside of Christianity, but some remained at least partially within the Christian fold. The Black Coptic Church is one of these. Black Coptics combined elements of Black Protestant and Black Hebrew traditions with Ethiopianism as a way of constructing a divine racial identity that embraced the idea of a royal Egyptian heritage for its African American followers, a heroic identity that was in stark contrast to the racial identity imposed on African Americans by the white dominant culture. This embrace of a royal Blackness-what McKinnis calls an act of "fugitive spirituality"-illuminates how the Black Coptic tradition in Chicago and beyond uniquely employs a religio-performative imagination. McKinnis asks, 'What does it mean to imagine Blackness?' Drawing on ten years of archival research and interviews with current members of the church, The Black Coptic Church offers a look at a group that insisted on its own understanding of its divine Blackness. In the process, it provides a more complex look at the diverse world of Black religious life in North America, particularly within non-mainstream Christian churches.
Leonard Cornell McKinnis II is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Religion and African American Studies at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd Project.