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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

BLACK HISTORY: FATHER DIVINE

Here's another person you never hear about in Black History Month.  A lot of us, especially the Hip Hop generation, use the word "peace" as a greeting.  Believe it or not, but this man is the one who originated that.  Not only that but he had an impact on the man who would later become known as Father Allah, creator of the Nations of Gods and Earths, also known as 5 Percenters.  That alone is a lot of Hip Hop history right there, just think of how many rappers say "Peace God" on the mic.  Father Divine helped introduce many people (not limited to the black community) to the concept of God in man.


Father Divine (1876-1965)(aka: Reverend Major Jealous Divine, The Messenger and George Baker) founder of the International Peace Mission Movement, was one of the first black preachers to preach the power of positive thinking. Consuming Harlem, New York in his aura, his phrase "PEACE!" was always met by "Thank You Father!"  He was one of the first black preachers to have a luxury sedan and even had a throne placed in the middle of it. He owned multiple businesses and was said to never have collected an offering (publicly). He believed he was God "condescended" to man and was the only true expression of God's Spirit on earth. He was arrested for lunacy in 1914.

"Then I say, in reference to the condescension of GOD to Israel, this was merely an expression to the Israelites and to those who were called Jews. GOD appeared to them at that time, in the time of need, the same as I appeared in this dispensation, in and at the time of great depressions, lacks, wants and limitations; at the time of your need..."When every human agency and every human possibility shall have failed you, then and only then will GOD appear; for GOD cannot work effectively, neither can HE appear to be seen distinctly wheresoever other things are represented and considered. Therefore those things must come to their destination, and man must come to his complete extremity, that GOD might have an opportunity to come; even so much as to come, and especially that GOD might have an opportunity to be ushered into expression and be considered before the masses. For this cause, it was essential and it has always been, for GOD to appear at the time and in places where HE is most needed. That is the mystery."


Most are unaware of this connection.  It is hard to ignore the growth and development of the hip-hop movement, especially the elements of the 5% Nation to the influence of this man. Why and how? Well, it was the teachings, influence and personality of Father Divine that went on to effect Clarence 13 X (Clarence Edward Smith 2-28 ~ 6-69) who was the founder of the 5 Percenters. Not only was he also from Harlem, he was also called "Father Allah" remember the Five Percenter Nation greeting..."PEACE GOD!" As referenced above, this was a signature greeting of Father Divine.  Jay-Z has adopted this saying and incorporated into his music and persona also. So we can readily see the influence of these men that still lives on.

Lil Wayne said "I AM God" recently at a New York party.



"So it is with GOD from HIS Majesty and from HIS Omniscience. GOD is invisible and lies dormant - HE lies dormant to the great Universal Scheme of things until HE can put HIMSELF forth into expression in something visible or visibilated, or tangibilate Himself into outer expression. Hence, GOD becomes to be the Personification of that which HE is or that which HE was invisibly. The Word is made Flesh!"

 Little is definitively known about Father Divine's early life, or even his real given name. Father Divine and the Peace Movement he started did not keep many records. 

Father Divine was a lightly built African American man at a diminutive 5′2″ (1.57 m). Through most of his life, he maintained a fastidious appearance and a neat moustache that he kept well groomed, his hair was invariably neatly combed, and since his days in Sayville, New York, he almost always wore a suit in public.

Father Divine held banquets for as many as 3000 people in the summer.  He was the only black person in his neighborhood, much to the dislike of his neighbors.  They saw his banquets as a way to get rid of him.  Cars clogging the streets for these gatherings bolstered some neighbors' claims that Father Divine was a disturbance to the peace and furthermore was hurting their property values.

On Sunday, November 15, at 12:15 AM, a police officer was called to Father Divine's raucously loud property. By the time state troopers, deputies and prison buses were called in, a mob of neighbors had surrounded the compound.

Father Divine's trial was finally held on May 24, 1932. His lawyer, Ellee J. Lovelace, a prominent Harlem African American and former US Attorney had requested the trial be moved outside of Suffolk County, due to potential jury bias. The court acquiesced, and the trial took place at the Nassau County Supreme Court before Justice Lewis J. Smith. The jury found him guilty on June 5 but asked for leniency on behalf of Father Divine. Ignoring this request, Justice Smith lectured on how Father Divine was a fraud and "menace to society" before issuing the maximum sentence for disturbing the peace, one year in prison and a $500 fine.

Justice Smith, 55, died of a heart attack days later on June 9, 1932. Father Divine was widely reported to have commented on the death, "I hated to do it."  In fact, he wrote to his followers, "I did not desire Judge Smith to die.… I did desire that MY spirit would touch his heart and change his mind that he might repent and believe and be saved from the grave."

Father Divine was let out of jail within two weeks.  This of course added to the growing fame of Father Divine.

Father Divine moved to Harlem, New York, where he had accumulated significant following in the black community. Members, rather than Father Divine himself, held most deeds for the movement, but they contributed toward Father Divine's comfortable lifestyle.

In 1944, singer/songwriter Johnny Mercer came to hear one of his sermons. The subject was "You got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative." Mercer said, "Wow, that's a colorful phrase!” He went back to Hollywood and got together with songwriter Harold Arlen ("Over The Rainbow"), and together they wrote "Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive", which was recorded by Mercer himself and the Pied Pipers in 1945. It was also recorded by Bing Crosby with the Andrews Sisters that same year.


Although Father Divine strove extensively against lynching and bigotry, he accepted many of the negative characteristics assigned African Americans. He concluded that those who identified themselves as "black" manifested these characteristics. In short, he believed blacks perpetuated their own oppression by thinking racially. He once said that he was not poor because he did not belong to a poor downtrodden race—that he was not black.

Father Divine's movement was very prosperous and still exists today although the numbers have greatly dwindled.  He was gifted a mansion by one of his followers, John Devoute.  His Pennsylvania mansion is still owned by his Peace Mission.

Many researchers agree that Divine's parents were freed slaves.  He built a movement that grew from a small predominantly black congregation to an international, multiracial church.

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