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Chosen PeopleThe Rise of American Black Israelite Religions$
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Jacob S. Dorman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780195301403

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195301403.001.0001

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“Equivalent to Israelism”

“Equivalent to Israelism”

Inheritance, Freemasonry, and the Ancient Israelites

(p.56) 2 “Equivalent to Israelism”
Chosen People

Dorman Jacob S.

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the narratives that circulated ideas of the ancient Israelites in the world that Bishop William S. Crowdy and others inherited. It considers the history of interaction between Jews of European descent and people of African descent in the Caribbean and North America from the seventeenth century to the present, and argues that Black-white “contact” did not automatically produce twentieth-century Black Jews. The chapter examines the Methodist, Masonic, and Anglo-Israelite ethnological discourses that developed, on the one hand, to rationalize the subjection of colonized peoples and yet, on the other hand, formed the basis of an early theology of liberation for Britain's marginalized poor. Though Bishops Crowdy and his contemporary William Christian were both dedicated Freemasons, who brought much of their fraternal order into their Black Israelite churches, there is no “smoking gun” linking Black Jews like Crowdy or Christian to the Israelite discourses that circulated widely in Freemasonry and Anglo-Israelism. However, there is much circumstantial evidence suggesting that Crowdy and Christian had access to Masonic legends of the ancient Israelites. Older Masonic-Israelite ideas and African American traditions of Biblical exegesis probably both played a part in the formation of their own identification as Black Israelites.

Keywords:   ancient Israelites, William S. Crowdy, Black Jews, Freemasons, Black Israelites

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