Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

7/1/2010 - 6/30/2011

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

Black Prophets, Gods, and Utopian Visions: Religion and Racial Identity in the Great Migration

FAIN: FA-55227-10

Judith Weisenfeld
Princeton University (Princeton, NJ 08540-5228)

In this project I examine a number of early twentieth century black religious movements in the United States that proposed new ways of understanding black racial identity and destiny. In addition to charting the groups' varied strategies for rethinking racial meaning through a religious lens, I consider the movements' cultural impact and explore how their alternative claims about religion and racial destiny challenged mainstream black religious communities and resonated in black popular culture. At its core, this is a project about the public cultures of race in early 20th century black America and I examine the critical functions of religion in reconstructing black racial identity in both corporate and deeply private and individual ways. One of the work's major contributions lies in the attention I devote to tracing discussion within and across African American religious communities about understandings of race.

Media Coverage

UpFront (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Cat Brooks
Publication: KPFA Radio, Berkeley CA
Date: 4/3/2017
Abstract: Interviewed by Cat Brooks on KPFA radio.

Black Religious Movements and Religio-Racial Identities during the Great Migration (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Brad Stoddard
Publication: Religious Studies Project
Date: 6/26/2017
Abstract: Interview with Brad Stoddard for The Religious Studies Project podcast.

Charting the course of race, religion in early 20th century migration (Media Coverage)
Publication: WHYY Newsworks
Date: 2/9/2017
Abstract: Interview with Dave Heller of Newsworks on WHYY

New World A-Coming (Review)
Author(s): Jeffrey Wheatley
Publication: ReadingReligion
Date: 7/13/2017
Abstract: Review of New World A-Coming on ReadingReligion, the book review blog of the American Academy of Religion.

Roundtable on New World A-Coming (Review)
Author(s): LeRhonda S. Manigault-Bryant, Emily Suzanne Clark, Chernoh M. Sesay, Tisa Wenger, Danielle Brune Sigler
Publication: Black Perspectives
Date: 9/26/2017
Abstract: A scholarly roundtable of responses to New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity during the Great Migration published online in Black Perspectives and in print in the Journal of Africana Religions.

Podcast Interview with Hillary Kaell (Media Coverage)
Author(s): Hillary Kaell
Publication: New Books in Religion
Date: 8/17/2018
Abstract: Podcast interview.

Associated Products

Spiritual Complexions: On Race and the Body in the Moorish Science Temple of America (Book Section)
Title: Spiritual Complexions: On Race and the Body in the Moorish Science Temple of America
Author: Judith Weisenfeld
Editor: Sally Promey
Abstract: N/A
Year: 2014
Publisher: Yale University Press
Book Title: Sensational Religion: Sense and Contention in Material Practice

Post-Racial America? The Tangle of Race, Religion, and Citizenship (Article)
Title: Post-Racial America? The Tangle of Race, Religion, and Citizenship
Author: Judith Weisenfeld
Abstract: N/A
Year: 2012
Primary URL:
Format: Other
Periodical Title: Religion and Politics

New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity during the Great Migration (Book)
Title: New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity during the Great Migration
Author: Judith Weisenfeld
Abstract: This book explores the intersections of religion and racial identity among black migrants from the South and immigrants from the Caribbean who encountered one another in the northern cities of the early twentieth century Great Migration and contributed to the religious transformations migration suprred. Focusing on the Moorish Science Temple, Father Divine's Peace Mission movement, congregations of Ethiopian Hebrews, and the Nation of Islam, all of which emerged in the context of urbanization, migration, and immigration, the project charts how members promoted alternative understandings of black racial identity and collective history to the dominant narratives provided by mainstream black Protestant churches and in broader American society. Arguing that members of these groups understood their religious and racial identities as divinely-ordained and inseparable, the book examines how commitment to a particular religio-racial sense of self shaped their conceptions of their bodies, families, communities, space and place, and political sensibilities. Focusing closely on the experiences of average members in the religio-racial movements, the study reveals rich and complex religious systems that shaped members’ everyday lives and influenced black culture at large. Rather than operating at the margins of public and community culture, as critics and later historians often argued, the book demonstrates that the efforts by members of the religio-racial movements to contest conventional racial categorization, both discursively and in embodied practice, was part of a broader set of discussions in black America at the time about the nature of racial identity and the collective future of black people.
Year: 2016
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: NYU Press site
Access Model: Print book
Publisher: New York University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9781479888801
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes


Albert J. Raboteau Book Prize for the Best Book in Africana Religions
Date: 1/1/2017
Organization: Journal of Africana Religions
Abstract: he Albert J. Raboteau award is given each year to an academic book that exemplifies the ethos and mission of the Journal of Africana Religions, an interdisciplinary journal that publishes scholarship on African and African diasporic religious traditions. Albert J. Raboteau, for whom the prize is named, is author of the classic Slave Religion: The Invisible Institution in the Antebellum South, a book that has made a lasting impact in the field of Africana religions. To become eligible for the award, books must be nominated by an academic publisher, and a prestigious five-member committee is responsible for assessing these nominations and determining a winner. The selection, thus, is international in scope and highly competitive.