Reveals the influence of one of the most fascinating African American religious and political leaders of the nineteenth century
Until now, the public life of James Walker Hood (1831–1918), bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church and a major political and religious leader of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, has gone largely unexamined. For God and Race recovers the public career of Hood as a representative of the major builders of independent black Christianity during this period who understood faithfulness to God as inseparable from the quest for racial justice, and it explores Hood's role in the AMEZ Church, a denomination known for its singular success in promoting leadership for the abolitionist movement.
Placing Hood in the setting of American and African American history and the black church and skillfully using a wealth of primary documents and records, Sandy Dwayne Martin examines Hood's early life in Pennsylvania; his early ministry in the northeastern United States and Nova Scotia; his church organizing, mission work, and political activities in the South during the Civil War and Reconstruction; and his forty-four-year active episcopacy in the Zion Church.
Politically, Hood had a tremendous impact on Reconstruction politics in North Carolina, serving in the state constitutional convention of 1867–68 and holding a number of governmental positions, including that of assistant superintendent of public instruction. During his public career as a minister, public official, bishop, and spokesman for racial equity, Hood forcefully expressed his views on such matters as slavery, lynching, disfranchisement, segregation, education, labor issues, the Spanish-American War, and party politics in relation to the United States presidency.
Martin also illuminates the struggles of the era's black ministers and missionaries and the exacting demands of the AMEZ episcopacy. He demonstrates that during Hood's ministry the black church dealt with theological matters of interest to the wider American religious community, such as ecumenism, the nature and function of the episcopacy, qualifications for ministry, conceptions of holiness and sanctification, and the ordination of women.
Sandy Dwayne Martin is a professor of religion at the University of Georgia in Athens. He has written numerous articles and book chapters on black religious history and is the author of Black Baptist and African Missions: The Origins of a Movement, 1880–1915.
"Future scholars will no doubt establish a more reliable picture of mainstream black theology and practice at the turn of the century. In so doing, however, they will be building upon the groundwork laid by this pathbreaking study."—Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
"Martin has written an excellent and much needed biography of the religious and political activities of African Methodist Episcopal Zion Bishop James Walker Hood. This study helps fill in historical gaps …"
"An important study …"—Choice
"Martin has done justice to James Walker Hood, successfully removing him from the shadow of Bishop Alexander Walters, who wielded less influence in the AMEZ Church than he, and making a strong case against his continued neglect by scholars."—Mississippi Quarterly
"The book will be worthwhile for scholars and graduate students in African-American religious history and American religious history. In addition to filling a significant gap in scholarship on the AME Zion Church, it is also a useful case for how one might approach religious biography when relatively few sources are available."—Church History
"For God and Race is very well organized and highly readable …Martin has written an excellent biography …one that should appeal to a wide audience and shed new light on the history of African-American religion in North Carolina and in the US."—North Carolina Historical Review
"A solid, thoughtful, and important study."—Journal of Southern History