Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

James Cone, Founder of Black Liberation Theology,' Dies at 79

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

James Cone, Founder of Black Liberation Theology,' Dies at 79

Article excerpt

James H. Cone, the scholar known as the "founder of black liberation theology," died April 28, Union Theological Seminary announced.

He was 79.

The author of such books as Black Theology & Black Power and God of the Oppressed joined the faculty of the New York City seminary in 1969.

"In so many ways, James Cone has been Union Theological Seminary for the past 50 years," said Union Theological Seminary President Serene Jones. "To say his death leaves a void is a staggering understatement. His prophetic voice, deep kindness, and fierce commitment to black liberation embodied not just the very best our seminary but of the theological field as a whole and of American prophetic thought and action."

His theology contrasted sharply with traditional theological approaches in that he articulated God's identification with US. blacks. In portraying Christ's blackness, he upended the assumptions of a field dominated by white theologians and helped spawn other theories of liberation.

In the introduction of his most recent book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Cone noted that he was making connections many others had not.

"Despite the obvious similarities between Jesus' death on a cross and the death of thousands of black men and women strung up to die on a lamppost or tree, relatively few people, apart from black poets, novelists, and other reality-seeing artists, have explored the symbolic connections," he wrote.

Cone's book was honored with the 2018 Grawemeyer Award in Religion, a joint award from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville. …

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