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The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America / Edition 1

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Overview

How is it that in America the image of Jesus Christ has been used both to justify the atrocities of white supremacy and to inspire the righteousness of civil rights crusades? In The Color of Christ, Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey weave a tapestry of American dreams and visions—from witch hunts to web pages, Harlem to Hollywood, slave cabins to South Park, Mormon revelations to Indian reservations—to show how Americans remade the Son of God visually time and again into a sacred symbol of their greatest aspirations, deepest terrors, and mightiest strivings for racial power and justice.
The Color of Christ uncovers how, in a country founded by Puritans who destroyed depictions of Jesus, Americans came to believe in the whiteness of Christ. Some envisioned a white Christ who would sanctify the exploitation of Native Americans and African Americans and bless imperial expansion. Many others gazed at a messiah, not necessarily white, who was willing and able to confront white supremacy. The color of Christ still symbolizes America's most combustible divisions, revealing the power and malleability of race and religion from colonial times to the presidency of Barack Obama.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Consider the visage of Jesus Christ. No simple task, as Blum (history, San Diego State Univ.; Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism) and Harvey (history, Univ. of Colorado; Freedom's Coming: Religious Cultures and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War Through the Civil Rights Era) demonstrate in their compelling study of the image of Jesus through American history, from the evangelism of early European colonists to the Obama presidency. The authors begin and end with one moment: the 1963 Birmingham Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing, in which four girls were killed and the (white) face of Jesus was blown out of a stained glass window (later replaced by an image of a black Jesus). The Bible provides no physical description of Jesus, leaving believers and opinion makers to visualize him as they will. And they will, generally, visualize him as a tall, handsome, long-haired, bearded white man. This book explores the sociopolitical reasons for this, through many intriguing voices taken from scores of primary and secondary sources. VERDICT Dense, scholarly, and evenhanded, well paired with Stephen Prothero's American Jesus (which it references), this work will captivate readers of American religious and racial history.—Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus
From the Publisher
The Color of Christ reveals tremendous complexity, multiplicity and ambiguity to the rich intercultural and interracial relationships and conflicts that have continually changed American culture. Blum and Harvey's latest work deserves to be widely read so that we may yet know how our past endures in the present.--America Magazine

A tremendous resource for teachers seeking to educate students about the myriad movements in the U.S. that have taken Jesus' name and image, as well as general readers seeking a lively introduction to the topic.--Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, Journal of Southern Religion

[A] compelling study. . . . This work will captivate readers of American religious and racial history.--Library Journal

A fascinating story that we cannot afford to ignore.--Books & Culture

Readers will definitely benefit from engaging the authors' discoveries and analyses for themselves.--Interpretation

The authors' breadth of research is impressive, and their incorporation of material culture is a model for future scholarship.--Journal of American History

A solid contribution to the conversation on religion and race in U.S. history. . . . The American Christian community remains trapped within a web of racial hierarchies, flawed theological assumptions and dangerous patriarchal precedents that continue to inform Christian doctrine and liturgy. The best way to treat an illness is to begin by discovering its root causes. The Color of Christ does just that.--Christian Century

This model of academic inquiry and analysis is clearly written, deeply researched, socially engaged, ambitious in the intellectual scope of its questions about race and religion, and methodical in its answers.--A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012

Blum and Harvey have produced a rich and readable narrative that begins with the Puritans and concludes with Jesus in the age of Obama--Christian Century

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807835722
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 9/21/2012
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author


Edward J. Blum is author of Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism.

Paul Harvey is author of Freedom's Coming: Religious Cultures and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

Introduction: The Holy Face of Race 7

Part I Born Across the Sea

1 When Christ Crossed the Atlantic 27

2 Revolutionary Visions in Colonial Confines 53

3 From Light to White in the Early Republic 76

Part II Crucified and Resurrected

4 Body Battles in Antebellum America 105

5 Christ in the Camps 120

6 Nordic and Nativist in an Age of Imperialism 141

Part III Ascended and Still Ascending

7 The Great Commission in the Great Depression 173

8 Civil Rights and the Coloring of Christ 205

9 A Deity in the Digital Age 234

Epilogue: Jesus Jokes 266

Acknowledgments 279

Notes 283

Index 327

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