By J. Floyd-Thomas
By interpreting the minister who helped encourage the founding of the Harlem Unitarian Church Reverend Ethelred Brown, Floyd-Thomas deals a provocative exam of the non secular and highbrow roots of Black humanist thought.
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Extra resources for The Origins of Black Humanism in America: Reverend Ethelred Brown and the Unitarian Church
Nevertheless, even if she might not win over the majority of public opinion toward her way of thinking, Walker has created an intriguing concern that is sadly all too rare in most contemporary discussions about religious matters: a willingness to Introduction 19 speak about what might heal us rather than those things that hurt us. It is especially significant that someone with artistic stature and international reputation of Alice Walker has the overall opportunity to not only speak her mind but also bare her soul with regards to advancing her viewpoints as a Black humanist to a broader public.
More importantly, this chapter will demonstrate the various hopes and expectations held by newcomers such as Rev. Brown, and how Harlem came to represent the fulfillment of those dreams. Chapter two examines the efforts and exploits of this small congregation to become an officially recognized church both within the Unitarian denomination and their local environs. The HUC was the first and, until the late 1930s, only Black Unitarian congregation in America. Historically, Black men and women have been attracted to Unitarianism only in small numbers (and the denomination is accordingly absent from research about the historic Black Church tradition in America).
In a historic enterprise such as Black Christianity that has had more than its fair share of theft, corruption, avarice, and apathy, Rev. Brown was self-sacrificing, giving, long-suffering, and deeply committed to social justice. Suffice it to say, Rev. Brown was not perfect and most certainly preferred to take the path of most rather than least resistance. But that is beside the point. Because of his adherence to an untraditional and challenging belief system and in spite of his awe of God’s divine glory or the profundity of the Christian gospel, he stands as an overlooked figure, always on the fringes of the “great cloud of witnesses” that make up the Black Church tradition.