Edward Blum’s University of Houston’s Seminar on Race by Phil Sinitiere

Phil Sinitiere, the department chair at the Second Baptist School and a historian of religious history and race published the photo above and the blog piece below here at his bald blogger blog; Phil invited me to join him (seated in the middle) and Edward Blum for a great dinner the day before Blum’s lecture. Above to the left is Blum and I am off to the right taking copious notes. There is little for me to say here; Phil did a great job. I also address Blum’s discussion of black Jesus here as found in his recent book on W.E.B. Du Bois. Take a second to look at the photo below of Christ and the black man being lynched; if Phil’s audio is not clear on this blog, take a second to visit his bald blogger for the audio recording of Blum’s lecture.

Last Thursday SDSU’s Edward J. Blum gave a lecture/book talk at the University of Houston’s Central Campus. The History and African American Studies departments co-sponsored the event. Thanks to Dr. Bob Buzzanco and Dr. James Conyers for making this event happen.

Ed’s talk was titled “The Noose and the Cross: Race, Religion, and the Redemption of Violence in the Works of W. E. B. Du Bois,” and discussed lynching and the way W.E.B. Du Bois worked to find redemptive value in this violent expression of white supremacy. The lecture also covered Du Bois’s short stories, religious art from the Harlem Renaissance, Jeremiah Wright, and even religiously-themed artwork relating to the life of Tupac Shakur and Barack Obama (and here), among other topics.

Listen to the lecture here (53.5 MB). Ed used the image below–“Christmas in Georgia, A.D., 1916,” by Lorenzo Harris, and taken from the December 1916 issue of The Crisis (pp. 78-79)–to begin the discussion. The caption reads: “Inasmuch as ye did unto the least of these, My brethren, ye did it unto Me.”


As I remember it, these were the Q&A question topics (question are hard to hear on audio):

1) religion/hip-hop/”G” not gangsta but reference to “God/deity”

2) LeBron James/messianic images

3) Du Bois’s use of religion for strategic, pragmatic purposes only

4) religious imagery/Nation of Islam/civil religion

5) Du Bois’s “lost voice” prior to/during the Civil Rights Movement

6) Is Du Bois spiritual and/or religious? Neither? Religious not spiritual; spiritual, but not religious?

7) religiously-sanctioned violence (Christianity)

8) secularization and narratives of American religious history

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7 thoughts on “Edward Blum’s University of Houston’s Seminar on Race by Phil Sinitiere

  1. So…you’re OK now? Neurological surgeons and all give folks a fright. I hope you can stop by and give my post on writing a poem (competitively, mind you) a try. Then we’ll see if that noggin of yours is operating at optimal effectiveness.

    It’s good to see you posting again.

  2. Christian religiously sanctioned violence!? Are you sure you’re allowed to teach that?

    I don’t really understand the point of the lecture, was it to analyze how Du Bois tried to say it was understandable what white Christians were doing, (I assume that is what you meant by redemption) or is it asking why Du Bois would have even wanted to justify the acts of violence?

  3. My assumption is that the previous commenter did not listen to the lecture, for it is about how African Americans like Du Bois tried to make religious sense, or find religious meaning, amid the terrible violence that was being committed against them by white Christians. One response was to link the black lynch victim with the figure of Christ to denounce the whites as killers of the sacred and to sanctify the black body which the white crowd had attacked. This is crucial to any historical understanding of race and religion in United States history.

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