THE BLACK SOCIAL gospel is a critically important religious tradition—one that Gary Dorrien gives exquisite treatment in Breaking White Supremacy: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Social Gospel. This is the second installment of a two-volume series. The first, The New Abolition: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel, won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in Religion. The black social gospel, Dorrien explains, focuses not only on a political economy of justice—on matters including labor, land, and democratic use and ownership of capital—but also, unlike white social gospels, on racial equity.
Breaking White Supremacy explains the family tree of transformative religion that birthed Martin Luther King Jr.’s unique, but not unprecedented, practice of Christianity in Jim Crow America. Dorrien contends that mystic and author Howard Thurman, Morehouse College president Benjamin Mays, and Howard University president Mordecai Johnson provided examples of black Christian piety for King, which along with liberal theological education at seminaries in the northern region of the country shaped King to push America to become the social democracy it has never been.