Albert Cleage: The Same Black Revolution


My research is about Albert Cleage and the church he formed, The Shrine of the Black Madonna. My argument is simple: The Shrine is an example of a church adopting black power and incorporating it as a theology that would drive its black power programs. But what is most interesting about my research is how it connects with how #BlackLivesMatter folks in Nashville think about the current movement. Because Nashville is a city where many sit-ins and demonstrations took place, we see our struggle as connected. Cleage also interpreted the struggle for black power in Detroit as an extension of the earlier parts of the movement. Instead of viewing black power as a distinct, new struggle, Cleage interpreted it as the movement growing up. But it was the same black revolution. 

“A march which began almost fifteen (sixty) years ago in Montgomery, Alabama, has now reached Newark, New Jersey, Detroit, Michigan, (Nashville, TN), and almost a hundred other cities from coast to coast. This is the same black revolution that started when Rosa Parks refused to move to Montgomery, Alabama. The same one. The same black revolution that drew black college students to the South for freedom rides and demonstrations. The same black revolution. The same moment, the same freedom struggle. It is the same thing going on now, today, in New Jersey and Detroit (and Nashville) and a hundred other cities. The same thing. But people are reacting differently because a movement grows up. A moment comes of age, a movement one day begins to come to grips with reality.”¹-Rev. Albert Cleage

¹Alber Cleage, The Black Messiah ( Reprint: New Jersey: Africa World Press, Inc., 1989), 130.


James Baldwin on a Useful Past

“The paradox–and a fearful paradox it is–is that the American Negro can have no future anywhere, on any continent, as long as he is unwilling to accept his past. To accept one’s past–one’s history– is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought. How can the American Negro’s past be used? The unprecedented price demanded–and at this embattled hour of the world’s history–is the transcendence of the realities of color, of nations, and of alters.”

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time