Jesus Would Be Jim Crowed: Bishop Robert Lawson on Race and Religion in the Harlem Renaissance

Title

Jesus Would Be Jim Crowed: Bishop Robert Lawson on Race and Religion in the Harlem Renaissance

Description

This article first identifies Lawson’s place within clerical discourses of race in early Pentecostalism. The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, an interracial Oneness Pentecostal body, rent asunder over race in 1924 owing to Jim Crow laws and overt racism from the
Southern ministerial body itself.

Secondly, it seeks to understand Lawson’s radical theology in the world of U.S. religious thought. At the time of Lawson’s publication, churches on the North side of the Mason-Dixon Line largely failed to integrate. And while many of Lawson’s contemporaries shared a conservative fundamentalist approach to the Bible, Lawson’s
idiosyncratic hermeneutics allowed him to interrogate the ideological captivity of U.S. Christians.

Finally, this article contextualizes Lawson in the discourse on race of the Harlem Renaissance as a creative thinker and writer, and a radical theologian. Scholars have long noted the elision in our scholarship on examining the role of smaller or less known churches in Harlem. The balance of scholarship tips in favor of poets and playwrights instead of showing any substantial mass of preachers and priests. By understanding Lawson in his religious context
within Harlem, we can see how he broadens the paradigm of black political and racial discourse. Lawson offered an alternative anti-racist lens that diverged from that of other well-known Harlem preachers: Daddy Grace and Father Divine, both of whom Lawson challenged. The
following explores how we might place Lawson in that pantheon of race thinkers, prophets, and leaders.

Published in Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion Volume 6, Issue 3 (August 2015)

Creator

Lloyd Barba (ldbarba@umich.edu)

Date

August 2015

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Citation

Lloyd Barba (ldbarba@umich.edu), “Jesus Would Be Jim Crowed: Bishop Robert Lawson on Race and Religion in the Harlem Renaissance,” Anti-Racism Digital Library, accessed November 25, 2020, https://sacred.omeka.net/items/show/155.