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Home / US / James H. Cone, founder of Black Liberation Theology, dies at 79: The Two-Way: NPR

James H. Cone, founder of Black Liberation Theology, dies at 79: The Two-Way: NPR



Rev. James Hal Cone taught at Union Theological Seminary until his death. He was there for decades, teaching generations of students.

Filip Wolak / Union Theological Seminary


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Filip Wolak / Union Theological Seminary

Rev. James Hal Cone conducted a radical spiritual conversation in 1

969. With his book Black Theology & Black Power he questioned the dominant white-theological paradigm. Cone presented his specific argument for "God's radical identification with blacks in the United States," a statement by the Union Theological Seminary – where he worked decades before his death on Saturday. He started what became known as Black Liberation Theology, and the conversation echoed across theological and cultural circles.

Cone was born in Fordyce, Arkansas, and experienced the intense racial segregation of the 40s and 50s. He attended Shorter College and Philander Smith College for his undergraduate degree. He graduated from Garrett Theological Seminary and then earned his masters and doctorate degrees from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Cone later became pastor in an African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1969 he joined the Union and was appointed full professor four years later.

"Fifty years of college students are out of their class – they're crying, they're inspired, they're getting busy," said NPR's seminar president Serene Jones Colin Dwyer. "But they all go out and feel deeply touched by his kindness and his vehemence."

During his decades at Union, Cone focused most on the black liberation theology and the liberation theologies of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. During his apprenticeship he continued to speak at conferences throughout the country.

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His numerous books have been translated across continents and languages, including A Black Theology of Liberation, God of the Oppressed, Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare? and The cross and the lynx tree. According to the Union Theological Seminary he made a paper shortly before his death. Said I would not tell anyone should appear later this year.

In an interview with Terry Gross in 2008, Cone described Black Liberation Theology as a faith That God is with the poorest and weakest members of society In most cases, Cone said, these people were black.

"Black theology is an understanding of the gospel that sees justice for the poor as the heart of what the Christian gospel is about and the heart of what God is doing in this world," he said.

Kegel I preached that black Americans were not made into exploitation or slavery, but to the freedom that all followers of the gospel sought.

Inspired by both Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. King, he said, gave black theology its Christian identity. Malcolm X gave black theology its black identity.

"It's important because we were black before we were Christians," he said in an interview.

Black Liberation Theology supports the self-confidence of a black Christian, Cone said. Without loving you, he said you can not love each other.

Cone is survived by two daughters, Robyn and Krystal, two sons, Michael and Charles, and two grandchildren, Jolei and Miles.


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