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Pillars of Cloud and FireThe Politics of Exodus in African American Biblical Interpretation$
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Herbert Robinson Marbury

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781479835966

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479835966.001.0001

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Exodus in the Civil Rights Era

Exodus in the Civil Rights Era

Returning the Struggle to the Black Church

(p.133) 4 Exodus in the Civil Rights Era
Pillars of Cloud and Fire

Herbert Robinson Marbury

NYU Press

This chapter looks at the Civil Rights Movement both as an ideological trajectory and a chronological rubric, analyzing the interpretive work of two figures: Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., the U.S. congressional representative from Harlem and pastor of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church; and Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader from the South. It begins with Powell's sermon on Exodus 32 entitled, “Stop Blaming Everybody Else,” delivered in 1953 at a critical juncture in his career and in the formation of black political identity. His pillar of fire politics takes up the exodus story to focus the black community on both the ravages of McCarthyism and the responsibilities of citizenship. The chapter then examines two sermons of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Death of Evil Upon the Seashore,” and “Birth of a New Nation,” delivered in 1955 and 1957 respectively. Both sermons take the book of Exodus to deploy King's pillar of cloud politics.

Keywords:   Civil Rights Movement, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Martin Luther King Jr., black political identity, McCarthyism

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