The cross and the lynching tree are the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African American community. In this powerful new work, theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and souls of black folk. Both the cross and the lynching tree represent the worst in human beings and at the same time a thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning. While the lynching tree symbolized white power and black death, the cross symbolizes divine power and black life; God overcoming the power of sin and death. For African Americans, the image of Jesus, hung on a tree to die, powerfully grounded their faith that God was with them, even in the suffering of the lynching era. In a work that spans social history, theology, and cultural studies, Cone explores the message of the spirituals and the power of the blues; the passion and of Emmet Till and the engaged vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.; he invokes the spirits of Billie Holliday and Langston Hughes, Fannie Lou Hamer and Ida B. Well, and the witness of black artists, writers, preachers, and fighters for justice. And he remembers the victims, especially the 5,000 who perished during the lynching period. Through their witness he contemplates the greatest challenge of any Christian theology to explain how life can be made meaningful in the face of death and injustice.
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Table of Contents
1 "Nobody Knows de Trouble I See": The Cross and the Lynching Tree in the Black Experience 1
2 "The Terrible Beauty of the Cross" and the Tragedy of the Lynching Tree: A Reflection on Reinhold Niebuhr 30
3 Bearing the Cross and Staring Down the Lynching Tree: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Struggle to Redeem the Soul of America 65
4 The Recrucified Christ in Black Literary Imagination 93
5 "Oh Mary, Don't You Weep" 120
Conclusion: Legacies of the Cross and the Lynching Tree 152
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Disturbing to think that's who we have been as a culture/people/tribe. Insightful, provocative, emotional read...
In reading this book I am reminded of a saying by Mohatma Ghandi where he remarked - and I paraphrase him - that he respects Jesus Christ but that it is Christians that he has trouble with. In other words, as I understand him, we, as a group of people, do not always live what we believe and sometimes act in direct contradiction to what and Who it is that we profess. I think of this as I reflect on this book by James H. Cone. This book, by way of lynchings and the Christian Cross, ties in two important historical elements in the life of the people of the United States, religion and racial relations. It is a disturbing, but revealing look at how our collective memory has pushed lynchings to the back of our minds so as almost to forget this terrible part of our history, something that was condoned by those who considered themselves to be good Christians. In this sense it is a reminder to us of what can happen when religious faith is misused. Those seeking to learn more about lynchings in particular and the faith of Afro and Euro Americans in this time period will not be disappointed. This is a very good and informative book. Engaging the topic, which can at times can evoke feelings of discomfort, guilt and shame, may also begin to foster healing between religious and racial groups by recognizing that we are all affected by it. In closing I am reminded of the reflections of a retired, Catholic bishop in the United States. Again, I paraphrase. He said that for sincere reconciliation to be had, it must be based on truth - and, dare I add, justice. Engaging this book by James Cone, no matter what your religious or ethnic background, can help us all along in that journey.
James Cone nails on the head the largest sin of America, yet the least talked about