James Cone Black Theology of Liberation

James Cone Black Theology of Liberation


ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



A Black Theology of Liberation

By James H. Cone

With critical reflections by Delores S. Williams, Gayraud Wilmore, Rosemary Reuther, Pablo Richard, Robert McAfee Brown, and K.C. Abraham



Books by James Cone

God of the Oppressed  / A Black Theology of Liberation  / For My People, Black Theology and the Black Church

Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare (1992)  / Black Theology and Black Power

Risks of Faith: The Emergence of a Black Theology of  Liberation, 1968-1998   /  The Spiritual and the Blues: An Interpretation

Black Theology: A Documentary History: Volume Two: 1980-1992  /  My Soul Looks Back

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Book Reviews

“Any message that is not related to the liberation of the poor in a society is not Christ’s message. Any theology that is indifferent to the theme of liberation is not Christian theology.” 

–James H. Cone

When first published in 1970 A Black Theology of Liberation revolutionized theology with its searing indictment of white theology and society. James Cone radically reappraised Christianity from the pained and angry perspective of the oppressed black community in North America. Twenty years later Cone’s work retains its original power, enhanced now by the reflections on the evolution of his own religious quest for liberation.

“James Cone is a committed man ‘saturated’ in the real world, which he analyzes with the authority of one who has experienced it. A Black theology of liberation is for this reason a passionate book, passionately written. In reading it some will be chilled by their anger, others will tremble with fear. many readers, though, will find a stimulus here for their own struggles. This is what James cone envisages.”

Paulo Freire,  Foreword

“Professor Cone is the first theologian to give formal and systematic expression to the meaning of black religion and to place it in the context of the black revolution. But Dr. Cone’s larger contribution transcends the black revolution and offers to America, and to the church, a key to understanding something more about the faith than we have ever undertaken to learn.”   

–C. Eric Lincoln

“Much has happened in black theology since the publication of  A Black Theology of Liberation. Womanist theology has been the most creative and challenging development. the theological voice of Delores Williams is supported by Katie Cannon, Jacquelyn Grant, Kelly Brown, Cheryl Gilkes, Toinette Eugene, and Cheryl Sanders. 

Challenging theological voices also are being heard from a new generation of young male voices. They include: Dwight Hopkins, Josiah Young, James Evans, Robert Franklin, Alonzo Johnson, George Cummings, and Theodore Walker. In the area of biblical studies, Cain Felder has led the way with his important book, Troubling Biblical Waters. Other important voices include Randall Bailey, Renita Weems, Clarice Martin, Thomas Hoyt, and Vincent Wimbush.”    

–James Cone

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 James H. Cone

Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, New York. His many books include  A Black Theology of Liberation; God of the Oppressed;  Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare and My Soul Looks Back

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Bill Moyers and James Cone (Interview)  / A Conversation with James Cone

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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The Persistence of the Color Line

Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency

By Randall Kennedy

Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently “voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama” . . .

The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled “Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism.”  Recalling some of the criticisms of America’s past made by Mr. Obama’s former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who “never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.”  His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him “boy,” and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedy’s father “relished Muhammad Ali’s quip that the Vietcong had never called him ‘nigger.’ ” The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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updated  28 July 2008




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Related files:  Black Struggle  The Spiritual and the Blues  Dialogue on Black Theology  A Black Theology of Liberation   Is God a White Racist   Death of the Black Church

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