Albert Cleage and The Black Madonna
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Albert Cleage (1911-2000) was an ordained United Church of Christ minister who became increasingly influenced by black nationalists thought. This led Cleage to develop his own theology, viewing Jesus as a black messiah who came to free blacks from white oppression.

On Easter Sunday 1967, Cleage gave a sermon to his Central Congregational Church in Detroit and unveiled a large oil painting entitled "The Black Madonna." It depicted a black version of Mary (mother of Jesus) holding her son, a bold display challenging white depictions of main Christian figures and initiating the Black Christian Nationalist Movement.

After Cleage revealed "The Black Madonna," he continued promoting his black liberation theology through several books, including The Black Messiah (1968). He later formed his own denomination known as the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church (1972), still in existence. His ideas remain influential among Christians who reject the focus on white depictions of Jesus and his mother.

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Race/Ethnicity and Religion
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Race/Ethnicity and Religion in American History
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Timeline Entries for the same religious group Congregationalists (UCC)
Congregationalists (UCC): Other ARDA Links


Agyeman (Cleage), Shrine of the Black Madonna, 1976- Image courtesy of the Detroit News Collection, Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University
Book/Journal Source(s)
Murphy, Larry, J. Gordon Melton, and Gary Ward, 1993. Encyclopedia of African American Religions. New York: Garland.
Web Page Contributor
Benjamin T. Gurrentz
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in Sociology

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