Toward a Black Theology

Who is recognized as one of the best-known proponents of black theology?

Alfred Buford Cleage (1911–2000) was one of the best-known proponents of black theology. Known as Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman since the 1970s, the Indianapolis native decided to enter the ministry, and after years of study became a minister with the Congregational and Christian Church. He was a vibrant proponent of black theology and builder of strong congregations. In 1951 he returned to Detroit as pastor of St. Mark’s Community (Presbyterian) Church. Cleage, like his father, was an activist in his field, protesting a white Christianity that did not recognize his humanity. This, and other events of the 1950s, such as the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of Islam, as well as his reading from the works of black nationalists, led him to construct a black theology for the black community. Cleage argued that Jesus was a black Messiah born of a black Madonna and a black revolutionary. While preaching a sermon in 1967, he unveiled an eighteen-foot painting of a black Madonna and child and launched the Shrine of the Black Madonna and the Black Christian Nationalist Movement.


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