For God and Race: The Religious and Political Leadership of AMEZ Bishop James Walker Hood

Article excerpt

For God and Race: The Religious and Political Leadership of AMEZ Bishop James Walker Hood. By Sandy Dwayne Martin. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, c. 1999. Pp. xxiv, 248. $39.95, ISBN 1-57003-261-0.)

In this readable and engaging biography, Sandy Dwayne Martin attempts to rescue the Reverend James Walker Hood (1831-1918) from "great neglect in scholarly circles" (p. ix). Hood was a key figure in the post--Civil War growth of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ) Church--a black denomination that had been excluded from the slaveholding South--and in North Carolina's Reconstruction. Martin argues that Bishop Hood was a prime example of the kind of nineteenth-century black leader whose career combined religion and racial uplift.

Reverend Hood of the AMEZ Church arrived in New Bern, North Carolina, on January 20, 1864. He successfully contended with representatives from other denominations--black and white--for the allegiance of the black congregation of a large Southern Methodist church in that city. It was the first of many such victories for Hood, who was largely responsible for the growth of the AMEZ denomination among former slaves in the Carolinas and Virginia. Because of Hood's extraordinary record of accomplishment as a missionary, he was made an AMEZ bishop in 1872. Hood served in that capacity forty-four years, and, according to Martin, he "steadfastly opposed all changes in traditional orthodox Christian doctrine" (p. 18)--although he did support the ordination of women (p. 172).

Hood's career as a political officeholder during Reconstruction was much briefer that his career as a clergyman, but it was no less spectacular. …