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Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. discusses his book "the Black Messiah"

BROADCAST: 1967 | DURATION: 00:54:50

Synopsis

Discussing the book "the Black Messiah" with the author Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. He discusses the African American church and theology. He also discusses broader topics such as civil rights and African American history. Includes a clip of an interview with a woman named Mrs. Alexander at the beginning. Includes a clip of the song "Beulah Land" sung by the Georgia Sea Island Singers.

Transcript

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Studs Terkel What do you think would happen to Jesus Christ if he came back to the world today? To Earth?

Mrs. Alexander He'd take a look and go on back to heaven, [laughs] where he came from. He couldn't stay here. There's too much wicked-wickedness here. If Jesus Christ is a damn picture as him. He would take one look and say, "Well this has gotten completely outta hand. I got to go back and report it to my father." [laughs] That's all he could do. No, he couldn't, he couldn't manage here at all. Unless He would just assert himself and to use his power, the power that he has. He could live then because he could lift his hand and and wipe it all away. That's the way man has pictured him as being able to do anything but just to come here and live as a man for 33 years like he did when he came. Oh no. He couldn't last here, in first place they'd kill 'im. He wouldn't get to first base here, he's too different.

Studs Terkel Kill him because, well, he's an agitator.

Mrs. Alexander They'd kill him just because he's different, I know that, and another thing, he wouldn't be lily-white like they wrote a picture of him because he was born down there 'round in Africa and that sun doesn't allow the lillies. To be white. So he would be a dark man, so he would be a condemned man. So he wouldn't he couldn't stay here and if he did he'd have to stay with us. He'd have to stay in a Negro neighborhood.

Studs Terkel The ghetto.

Mrs. Alexander The ghetto. That's right. He'd have to stay in the ghetto unless somebody thought, a Negro thought he was different and would invite him to their home, invite him out and to stay with us because he might look a little different. But just come into the world and just from Africa where he was born and Egypt now down in there in Bethlehem and to come here, no he wouldn't be accepted. These white people take one look at him and he would have to get out of the white neighborhood before dark, otherwise the white policeman would be questioning him, "Why are you over here?" No, he couldn't stay. Not here.

Studs Terkel But the thoughts about Christ. Mrs. Alexander is an elderly woman who has worked for many years as a domestic in suburban homes here and and around Chicago. I thought it's a perfect opening [classical music plays in background] for conversation with Reverend Albert Cleage, Jr. who wrote the a new book, a remarkable book by the way. It's a it's a collection of his sermons called, "The Black Messiah." And Reverend Cleage is-- y-you're the clergyman of of the Church of the Black Madonna, That's

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Detriot. That's right. We call it the Shrine of the Black

Studs Terkel The Shrine of the Black Madonna.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right.

Studs Terkel In listening to lady, I call Mrs. Alexander, talk her thoughts. I'm sure many thoughts come to your mind, Reverend Cleage in hearing her.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. It was very interesting and she's a remarkable woman because she has had the ability to go beyond what she sees everywhere, the picture of a of a of a white Jesus and to to realize in terms of where he was born and in all of the things that tended to to produce Jesus that he could not have been white. And she ta-takes it very casually and I find in going around the country that for black people, the problem of accepting a a black Messiah is is equally [chuckles] as difficult as it is for many white people.

Studs Terkel Suppose we we talk about th-- so th-this is one of the recurring strains of your book which is a collection of yo-your very powerful sermons of the Shrine the Black Madonna. The illusion of the white Christ and your book is both political, it's a it's a philippic, it's powerful at the same time as theological, too-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Theology throughout runs-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Your own thoughts about this, the illusion of the white Christ and how it came to be?

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Well I I think the the basis, the foundation of of Christianity does go back to to Africa where Father Abraham of of Israel made a covenant with God and God said that "Your seeds shall be numerous, and you'll be my people." And Abraham then with his family, and that was all that made the nation Israel at the time, just the little family of Abraham, came in to Africa and went into Egypt and in Egypt he was accepted. There was a little difficulties there because he was afraid of being killed. And he said his wife was his sister so he-- she was taken by Pharaoh. But finally when he left with his family, left Egypt, he was given many gifts, he was rewarded, he was given slaves and servants and concubines. And so the little nation Israel at the time of its leaving Egypt, the first time, had more than doubled in size and the new people that were added were the the black people of Africa. And certainly it's it's difficult not to think of the Egyptians as black and most recent studies have demonstrated that even the Pharaohs were touched with the black blood of central Africa. So Israel left Egypt as a black nation from the very beginning. And then in wandering around the ancient world, around Africa, their their contact with black peoples of Africa was a continuous one. And there was a continuous intermingling of Israel, the growing nation Israel, with the black people of Africa. Certainly Moses married a black woman in Midian and Joseph when he went to Egypt, married a black woman. And during the years of slavery or bondage of Israel in Egypt for hundreds of years, the the Israelites as slaves mingled with the black slaves who also were in Egypt. So there was a constant mingling of the peoples in Africa and Israel merged as black people. I would say when Israel crossed the Red Sea, escaping from bondage, Israel was a blacker nation and the Egyptians that they were leaving.

Studs Terkel As you're talking Reverend Cleage, I can't help but feel and thinking of many of the spirituals that go back to slavery days, the reference to Israel: "Pharaoh's Army Got Drownded," "Go Down Moses," "Ezekiel Saw the Wheel." All these indeed have Old Testament references, the association of the black and and Israel.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. I think even spontaneously, even the most illiterate, untrained black preacher during slavery days when he was-- had to be very careful about what he preached, identified the condition of black people in America with the condition of Israel in the struggle against against slavery. And one of the early black poets had a poem, Ante-Bellum Sermon," in which he had a black preacher trying to preach about the Egyptians, Pharaoh's army and Israel and the dangers and so forth. And he had to keep saying it once in a while, "Now remember, I'm preaching 'bout Bible days." So his-

Studs Terkel Yeah, to make it clear-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. So his congregation wouldn't wouldn't go run and tell the master that he was in there preaching discontent, dissatisfaction.

Studs Terkel But the congregation knew very well the the reference.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. The congregation understood that he was using the word Israel but he was talking about black people.

Studs Terkel Yes. Black. 'fore I ask you about the Black Madonna, many legends and as you would say, many truths connected with it, too. Now I was going to askcathedrals about that and I was going to ask you about Jesus, himself. Jesus the zealot, the idea-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel The concept of Jesus, the active man rather than the passive man. The black-- since your church is called the Shrine of the Black Madonna. Now th-th-there a great deal of references to Black Madonna throughout history.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right. That's right. There are Black Madonnas throughout the world. Poland has a number of Black Madonnas that are in in various shrines in in Poland and throughout Europe in various places and in in Spain there's a very famous Black Madonna and throughout South America in in many of the cathedrals and churches there are Black Madonnas. There there's some difficulty trying to explain why they're black, in a, in a world which doesn't recognize any longer the the historic fact and they try to say "Well, it was stored and it it it deteriorated and then the the paint, black under something." But it's very difficult to explain away the number of Black Madonnas that exist in the world without recognizing that that people did know hundreds of years ago that the Madonna was dark and later they tried to forget it in the in the paintings of the Middle Ages.

Studs Terkel You have theories in in your sermons, book, by the way "The Black Messiah" published by Sheed and Ward, which rather Sheed Ward is primarily a Catholic house.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right, it's a Catholic publisher.

Studs Terkel It's really a collection of your sermons to your congregation.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right, that's right.

Studs Terkel And powerful they are. Before-- ask about Christ himself, your vision of Christ. And this could be both literal truth and metaphorical.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Your point is both are connected.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel The the how-- what you call the distortion, perhaps it was, took place, you know, how the lily-white image of Christ came to be. Thinking about Mrs. Alexander talking-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel About her view. And you you point out Paul the Apostle as being a factor here.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yes I I think it's Paul is really responsible for the distortion. Many white scholars today think, of course, it's a it's a development that he took the the religion of Jesus to another stage. I think actually it was a distortion because it completely destroyed the things Jesus taught and began to to build not on what Jesus said his life or his ex-experiences but upon a mystical event that happened on Calvary by which God, theoretically, provided salvation for mankind down through the ages, which is a very very involved kind of philosophical conception that that Paul came up with. Now I think that you have to realize that the Jesus built on the Old Testament, on on the history and experience of Israel. And the conception of Israel is the conception of a relationship with God as a people. And the Covenant was with Israel, not with Abraham as an individual. And all through the struggles of Israel, God is working with Israel. God is saving Israel. God is making revelations to Israel. And always the individual finds his his relationship with God through his participation in the nation. And religion and state are one in in in ancient Israel. And this basic concept of nation, I think, was terribly important to Jesus. Jesus dealt with the fact that under oppression, as all people do under oppression, Israel had become fragmented and there were people like Zacchaeus, the tax gatherer, who exploited the Jewish people for the benefit of Rome and for his own personal benefit. And the scribes and the Pharisees who were the legitimate organized church who reap certain benefits and privileges from Rome and assisted in keeping order in Israel. All of these things were true. But Jesus became a part of a revolutionary zealot movement which I think had its visible phase and its and its underground phase, as any revolutionary movement does. And I think his baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist was really the the way people joined the the revolutionary movement of which at that time John was the head. And then John was arrested and John was in prison and he sent to find out whether or not Jesus, who then had had gone into the wilderness had come back and begun to preach and organize, whether he really was going to assume the leadership because it was pretty obvious to John that he was never going to get out of jail. And he sent disciples to talk to Jesus to find out "Art thou the Messiah or the leader or do we look for somebody else?" And Jesus said very simply "Just tell John what I'm doing. I'm I'm working with people. I'm doing the things that are necessary to lead a movement." And then so Jesus became the the the revolutionary head of a of a zealot movement. And I I think this is this is important because Jesus was trying to to put together a movement. It was it was important, it was revolutionary. And there were the extremists in the movement, those who who told Jews not to pay taxes to Rome, that they were-- who tried to wreak vengeance on collaborators in Israel.

Studs Terkel A form of civil disobedience.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah. This-- there was a continuing thing, and it was obvious in the in the little story where they they the scribe and the Pharisees came to trick Jesus and asked him "Do we pay taxes?" Now this was obviously designed to make him either commit himself so that he would be arrested by the Roman government or to make a statement that was collaborationist so that he would be repudiated by the people. And he very cleverly said, "Well give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God." So the the Roman government couldn't arrest him and the people couldn't repudiate him. So it was a it was a kind of a a c-clever dealing that Jesus had to do throughout his whole ministry, because he was he was the visible head of a revolutionary movement.

Studs Terkel Well throughout, by the way, we should point out that Reverend Cleage continuously uses testament references to buttress his points. Throughout here you call upon testament and you're interpreting it and the interpretation comes out

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Also the word-- before we come to Jesus-- the word nation is very important. You have several sermons, one dealing during the week of the assassination of Martin Luther King and a tribute to Malcolm X but y-you're saying that the time has also come, nationhood, banking on heroes, yes, but the people cannot bank on a lone hero.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Throughout you're saying this, too. You're speaking of now community.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Community involvement.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah I've I've tried to develop the idea that that that black people have had a difficult time developing leadership because essentially, as a people, we have always been waiting for the intervention of God to take care of the situation. During the the days of the early church, there was the the idea that that we could escape the problems of life in a very real way in the emotionalism of the service and in the promise of of salvation after death. And the fact that God would punish our oppressors. All of this this kind of feeling of escape and you can't have leadership for a people who are waiting for God to break into history, because you don't really need a leader because God's going to take care of it for you. So we always had-- developed spokesmen, people who could articulate about God but not not leaders in the sense of organizing and and mobilizing people to take concrete action. But during during a certain stage, this was terribly important because when when when black people couldn't conceive of changing the world they needed some way to to escape from the problems. And the the backwoods black preacher who who eloquently preached the possibilities of escape and of salvation in another world and and gave people a s-- a sense of friendliness and emotionalism on on Sunday, actually saved the sanity of black people in a world in which it was very difficult to live and and and keep sane with the kind of systematic oppression and brutality and violence that that black people lived in during slavery and during the Reconstruction period. And even when black people moved into the North, into the coldness, into the us-- rather distant, o-objective kind of violence that was perpetrated upon black people. All of this made it difficult for black people to to develop leadership. So I think really Dr. King was the last great leader in that sense that that black people have produced. And he he was he was a wonderful leader. He produced the the the the confrontation situations that made it possible for black people to begin to realistically understand how white people are. And in every confrontation across the South, black people all over America began to see that their dream of integration really was an impossible dream and that they had to reappraise the total situation, their relationship with white people. They had to begin to see white people as an enemy that had to be dealt with in terms of a power struggle and all of this was terribly important. And while King was creating the situations, Malcolm X was beginning to interpret in a way that had never been interpreted to black people before. So in my thinking, Malcolm X and and Dr. King made a made a team that made possible the total black revolution. Without either one of them the revolution could not have existed.

Studs Terkel This is a fascinating point. This is a very key point, too, to the collection of the sermons of of Dr. Cleage, Reverend Cleage, "The Black Messiah," the book-- is that even though it wasn't specifically, outwardly what Dr. King had in mind, no since he spoke of nonviolence and he dreamed of integration. Through his experience, the 13 years since Montgomery and through Malcolm X-- realization came of a certain kind of peoplehood.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel A certain realization came that-- also of white society.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yes, yes.

Studs Terkel And as a result of which this altered the black man's concept of himself, then.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right. I I think the black man would have probably still been in the same confused state of of of dreaming about integration if Dr. King hadn't interpreted the Supreme Court decision of 1954 as a as a mandate for integration now, and gone out realistically to try to realize it in in in in real campaigns and programs. The the whole movement that developed of which Dr. King was at least the nominal head, the sit-in demonstrations, the Freedom Rides, the efforts to integrate schools, the Montgomery bus boycott, all of these things across all across the South and and watched very closely by black people all across America, North and South, developed a new conception of of black people. The fact that the the white man in the South, th-the Bull Connors, the stupid white people in

Studs Terkel the Yeah.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Find it found it impossible to stop Dr. King's protest. T-The mobilization of black people, even if black people were being nonviolent. The fact that they learned to to put aside fear and this-- they could take the the the police dogs and the fire hoses and the cattle prods and the jails and still come back for more without feeling that in in any sense they were intimidated. Actually they were being released by this experience. The very violence that was being used against them released them from fear of violence. And so in the whole situation, black people came to a new identity, a new self-realization.

Studs Terkel Now fear itself has shifted. This is rather interesting. The fear of the black man is gone and we witness today something else, don't we? We fear white communities and headlines throughout, we're not gonna go into the matter now, specific events. Because Reverend Cleage speaks of causes of the bases of how individual events come to be. And so this fear of what? Of what white institutions have created in a sense, isn't there?

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm, mhmm.

Studs Terkel The shifting of fear. Yeah.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah. Black people have have escaped from fear and the revolution is possible today, and the struggle all across the country, because black people are no longer afraid. Black people are gonna continue the revolution no matter what the cost may be. It's a it's a sense of of of being sons of God in the sense that we were created with certain kind of dignity and we owe it to God not to accept anything less than that. But in the in the process I think white America now understands black people less and less. I think the misinterpretation of what's happening in black ghettos across the country is responsible for the general fear which the white man now has. He doesn't understand what's happening in black ghettos. So he's afraid, he feels threatened by it. Also he has some sense of guilt about having having created this condition and not knowing what to do with it. So now instead of the black man being afraid, you find white communities being afraid. White suburban communities surrounding black inner cities are are are filled with fear. The gun clubs that develop and the the total organization is an organization of fear on the part of white people when actually what's happening in black ghettos now is less threatening to white people than anything that black people have attempted from the days of slavery up until the present time. There is no basic threat because now black people are saying, "We're a people. We are separate. And the white man is designed the country so that we are separate. In every phase of life, we're separate. Now we're gonna accept that separation, but we're going to stop one thing. We're going to stop the white man from using our separation to exploit us and we're going to use it for our benefit. We're going to use it as a basis for power. We're gonna try to build political power because of our separation. We're going to try to build economic power. Cooperatives. We're going to picket and boycott. We're going to control the eco-economics of the ghetto because we have that kind of power. We're gonna use it also to to teach and to build black culture." But the things that that the white man fears so much: busing children into white neighborhoods or busing white children into black neighborhoods or open housing and all of these things, black people are not concerned about anymore.

Studs Terkel Now we come to a new development, don't we? Perhaps to ask you about this, this is the key of the matter of using the word "separate." Perhaps the matter of-- also with pluralism we hear a great deal about plural cultures.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel But let's go back again to beginnings and the church. Since you are a church man yourself. The church, the black church, and perhaps you can hear a a spiritual that goes back to slave days played-- the church was ambiguous in nature, at the same time you say, "saved sanity" of people-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Being oppressed at least during the week end of release, you see, but the church played a double role hidden at the black church in the past.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah, the the the church has gone through a kind of a gradual change in emphasis a-at the time of of slavery and just beyond when black people couldn't change conditions, the church was necessary as an escape to to-- a safety valve for black people. But recently when black people have have changed their basic conception of life, when black people are are willing to to try to do the things that that make basic changes possible, an escapist church is no longer of any value for black people. And so the church actually finds itself more and more on the outside of the basic tendencies and trends in the black community, and the church is is non-relevant to most things that are important to black people in the community. And so essentially, the the book "The Black Messiah" is an attempt to build a a serious black theology for the black church, so that the black church can begin to to relate itself to what now exists in the black community. We don't need escape in the black community now. We need guidance and leadership and stability and the institutional resources of the black church for the revolution. And so it's very possible now that the black church can shift its emphasis and stop being essentially an escapist institution, which is the basis for most of the criticism of the black community. It blocks the revolution. It saps the motivation of people-- black people for the revolutionary struggle. It short circuits the black revolution. It betrays the revolution. All the things that black young people are saying can be changed insofar as the black church begins gradually to shift its emphasis and to become a a a leadership part of the black revolution. And I-I find this, as I go around the country now, a very real thing in in most communities. The organization of black ministers. In fact a number of black ministers asked for the for the a book like "The Black Messiah"-

Studs Terkel

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah. That would help in the the interpretation of what's happening in the world. And the organization of of black ministers across denominational lines in the in the national committee of black churchmen, now kind of a black ecumenicity-

Studs Terkel Hmm.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Which is a new kind of thing, and the organization of black seminarians now, nationally in Boston just a few weeks ago, black seminarians across the country used to try to lose themselves in the church. Now they they come together and say "How can we in our ministry make the black church relevant to the black revolution?" I-I think the whole thing is changing in emphasis.

Studs Terkel Yes. The same-- and there's a new role here-- black-- and yet there always were the seeds, weren't there? The church was still, even in the old, it was still a sort of social center.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah it

Studs Terkel was It

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. It was powerful and it had always some seeds of of struggle, like Nat Turner's insurrection-

Studs Terkel Yes.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. And Nat Turner was was a black preacher then. And many of the other insurrectionist leaders were black preachers. But the basic, general influence of the black church was escapism.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. And now the general, basic tendency has got to shift and take leadership in the black revolution.

Studs Terkel If we could hear perhaps just an example of a song that's been sung through the years, "Beulah Land" has had many versions, many varieties, there's a white version of it. This is a black version of "Beluah" as an example of the kind of song that I'm sure in slavery days and in antebellum days as well as post-Civil War days s'been sung.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm. [music playing]

Studs Terkel Listening to the Georgia Sea Island Singers sing "Beulah Land," this song I'd say "Beulah Land" in itself I suppose in the sense, a city called heaven.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right.

Studs Terkel Beulah Land that land across the sky.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel And yet at the same time, in slavery days, we knew it was that swamp land between slave state and free state.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm, yeah. We hope now the the whole concept of revolution is we're going to build Beulah Land right here on Earth.

Studs Terkel Mhmm.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. We're gonna build it in every black ghetto across the country. So it's it's it's it's still the dream. We're gonna build the kind of world that we want, the Beulah Land, but we're gonna do it here, which shifts the emphasis of what the church has to do-

Studs Terkel Yes.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Actually makes its task a little more difficult in terms of structuring some of these changes.

Studs Terkel 'Cause now it's now.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. It's now-

Studs Terkel It's now and

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. It's it means you got-- yeah and you've gotta work out the details. You got to work out the the system of structuring change and all these things are are really complicated.

Studs Terkel In listening, Reverend Cleage, to the to the fragment of the of the spiritual, there's also something else as you hear the people participating. There always was the sense in jazz and it was called "Call and Response"-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Which stems from spirituals.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mm.

Studs Terkel The idea of audience, congregation-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Calling out, participating, not just sitting by supinely, even in the old days, but being with the preacher, with the man at the pulpit.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right. And I I think that is a that's a wonderful [cough] part of the black church. It's it's when white-- when black people were trying to integrate, they tried to get rid of that, you know, as a as a black person, would get a little money and you'd move into the congregational Presbyterian Episcopal Church. And he took pride in the fact that his church was just like a white church and everything was dead just [chuckles] like a white church, really.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. But in the in the in the basic mass black church, the the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church, there was always this-- and I think that was the the real, vital contribution that black people made to religion, they kept Christianity alive. And I-I know I preach in different churches now and i-it's much it's much easier, much nicer to preach in a church where people do participate, where where they're not ashamed to say "Amen" or whatever they want to do in in the service. And in my own church, we use gospel music and spirituals because it's it's a part of our tradition, and we-we're proud that we don't try to go back and find some some Bach music because white people use it in their church-

Studs Terkel Yeah, there's a phrase in theater called "total theater." In this case it might be called "total religion."

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right,

Studs Terkel It's the whole participation-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel When Mahalia Jackson used to work-- used to sing in the early days, and still does, but she says "I demonstrate."

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel That is, sings with a body and she walks down the aisle, so it's full completely, not just the voice alone but every aspect in a sense-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah,

Studs Terkel In your your case, the use of the music.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah.

Studs Terkel The use of the everything.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah. Mahalia Jackson, of course, is one of the the great religious singers of all time and some of the old old black preachers had that same sense of of being carried along on the wave of participation like Adam Clayton Powell's father would run up and down the aisle with his Bible on his shoulder as he preached, which was all a part of the the general participation-

Studs Terkel As you're talking, this is a-- we'll return to the theme of now-- this is-- what's all related the the past and the now, obviously related. The question also of drama but life as it was-- ritual but also, many critics now of theater say, "Gee, theater lost its whole. That it once was a community participated in olden-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mm.

Studs Terkel "Days is writt--" So you're saying, indeed, theology, politics, the church, the community, all related, all one for liberation.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah, that's right. And and I-I think as as the

Studs Terkel Of body as well as spirit.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right, as the church begins to capture this sense, the black church, it can bring alive religion in in a whol-wholly new sense in the 20th century, because it's it's it's a part of everything that's happening: the the life in the street, what what young people are doing, what the political leaders are doing, what the economy is doing. All of it is one and all comes together in the church in a in a joyful kind of participation in Bill and Beulah Land here on Earth.

Studs Terkel Of course. As as a white man I I say that, to me, it can help bring the [chuckles] white society alive, too, by the very nature of it, see? It can help bring-- that is whatever the muted tradition that is there, the humanistic-- where it's long long been buried, it can help bring that alive, too.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. I think so. I think so. I think I I don't have too many opportunities to to, you know, to worship in a white church. But I I do listen to the some of the sermons on radio and television sometimes. And I really wonder why white people go to church. A lot-- I mean it's it's it's so dead it's-

Studs Terkel So

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. So lacking in in feeling and people seem to have a sense of having come for-- out of a sense of obligation. You don't find that

Studs Terkel in- As

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah. You don't, yeah, you don't find that in in black

Studs Terkel In your in your book "The Black Messiah" that Sheed and Weed-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Sheed and Ward.

Studs Terkel Sheed and Ward, Sheed and Ward publish. Also you have some-- there's a great deal of humor here, too. It's Black humor, Black humor with a capital B in contrast to the current phrase of black humor meaning macabre humor. Also you you take off on middle-class blacks, wanted to be like whites-- throughout you have stories here that are quite hilarious and funny-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. [chuckles] Yeah.

Studs Terkel You face this continuously.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah, that's that's a problem, but I I [clears throat] the the problem of of the the black revolution is is much the same kind of problem that I think Jesus had in in his ministry. You try to bring together people who have been fragmented by oppression and the black middle-class has been-- has-- faces a a very difficult job in in becoming a part of the revolution, because they have such a stake in the the second class citizenship kind of thing where they they have received token benefits, not equality, but token benefits and to-- for them to join the revolution is much more of a sacrifice than a person who doesn't have anything except insofar as it's difficult for a man to live without dignity and a-- and the black middle-class is probably most conscious of the fact that with a few physical material benefits that they have, they're still living without dignity. And I found more and more recently in in recent years, that the black middle class is becoming an articulate part of the black revolution. They are more and more feeling that the whole black revolution actually promises more for them than for anybody else because they have the skills, they have the training, they have the education, which means that what the black revolution accomplishes, they are equipped to exploit

Studs Terkel Yes.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. So in in a sense I think the the black middle class is is moving swiftly towards full participation in the black revolution, just as the black church

Studs Terkel Yes, fact there there's one sermon which you point out that the white would be very much surprised as the one who seems to bow to him, his cocktail party companion, who puts down more active people to work on the streets. But back home he has his own views-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah,

Studs Terkel That are far more hostile, let's say, outward-- no inwardly, you know.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mm.

Studs Terkel Than the kid demonstrating on the streets or the young guy-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah, I've I've often said in speaking to white groups that a lot-- in in my own community, [cough or sneeze] many times white people speak of me as a militant, an extremist, and they they are afraid of of of my position. And I tell 'em that the the black man who sips cocktails with 'em is much more dangerous to them than I am. And if somebody cuts their throat in the black revolution, it'll probably be him [laugh] because he's got such pent-up frustrations that he won't be able to hold 'em back where I accept what they're doing and understand it in terms of humanity.

Studs Terkel Isn't this a key? Now we come to pent-up frustrations, power, and powerlessness. And that is the powerlessness-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right.

Studs Terkel That makes for violence. The powerlessness that makes for an act that might be considered destructive. Power does not. Powerlessness does it.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right. And that's that's the basic the basic objective of the black revolution, really, is to help black people organize and mobilize and struggle to escape from powerlessness. And that's the that's the thing that destroys people. Actually, oppression doesn't destroy people but the acceptance of of oppression, the acceptance of powerlessness, the acceptance of second class existence destroys a person psychologically, it destroys a people. So the whole process that black people are going through, this effort to escape from powerlessness is its own reward in a sense, because the struggle itself is is is a portion of the struggle of the escape from powerlessness. When you when you try to fight against powerlessness, you've you've escaped at least to the extent that no longer are you chained by the acceptance of the powerlessness. So it's it's a it's a complicated psychological struggle-

Studs Terkel You know I'm thinking there's there's a phrase, Walt Whitman is accepted in schools-- one of Walt's lines is Myself, I sing-- a single, separate person immense in passion, pulse, and power. [One's-Self I sing—a simple, separate Person / Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-masse. / Of Physiology from top to toe I sing, / Not physiognomy alone, nor brain alone, is worthy for the muse—I say the Form complete is worthier far, / The Female equally with the male I sing. / Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel And he speaks of power as being something beautiful and good within a man or used to exploit others.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr.

Studs Terkel Mm. That's something else. The misus-- the power within a person. And you're saying power within a nation, a black nation, a power within a people-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Is tremendously elevating, exhilarating, and liberating.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right. And it's it's made possible the tremendous advances that black people have made. I think probably, just take an area of economics. This last year, without too much in the way of publicity, in every black community black people are beginning to put together an economic program, economic development program. And we've made more progress, I think, economically and in in the last year than we made in in 400 years of our of our living in in the United States-

Studs Terkel Wh-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. and it's part of the whole

Studs Terkel Now we come to something of now, the question of community. Black people control the community. But there are two approaches, aren't they here? This question now as far as a candidate elected speaks of black capitalism,

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. you Mhmm.

Studs Terkel You're not talking about this particular-- black capitalism or you're talking about tremendous dough being pointed to-- that is-- it's a governmental obligation.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel It's-- ar-ar-are you? I'm just curious about this.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yea, well I think when you when you start out from a powerless position in economics, you have to utilize every-everything that's possible to try to get a little economic strength. Because not only do we start out from a position of powerlessness, but we start out in a position of powerlessness, economically, in a time when there are no economic frontiers, when everything is pretty well solidified. So black people have to try to use the cooperative movement, which I think is is is is of basic importance because it carries on the basic idea of nation and of people working together, cooperating and a lot of people putting in small amounts of money and and sharing in the ownership and in and their involvement in the economic system that they set up. But also we need to to force the government to to channel funds that come into black ghettos, through black corporations and black cooperatives, so that federal funds, guaranteed funds, are available to black businesspeople and to black cooperatives and this kind of thing. I think also we've got to force businesses that do business in in ghettos with black people to realize that they can't come into a black community and and hire janitors-

Studs Terkel Mm.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. You know and elevator operators and think that they've satisfied their obligation to the black community. We want we want the total employment to reflect-

Studs Terkel

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah, The fact that 90 or 95 percent of all the business done in many of these places is is being done by

Studs Terkel Yeah. You're also talking to young to young black people here, to black youth. And you're saying by all means education-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah,

Studs Terkel Both. You say not just the black-- quote unquote the "black thing."

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mm.

Studs Terkel You think about the need because of automation itself, because-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah.

Studs Terkel The nature of automation.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah I think in a in a in a changing time, certainly with automation and and cybernation, you know it-- hooking the automation up to computers, a people without education ar-are not gonna be able to exist in a in a in a whole industrial world in a very few years. And for for black people to try to disdain education, say that the revolution is is doing our thing and our own way, ignoring the the realities of the world would be self-defeating. I think our young people have to get all the education possible and the black community has to to put resources behind young people who have abilities so that they can get the e-- the education necessary because they're one of the one of the instruments of the revolution. And we have to try to encourage this.

Studs Terkel Now about revolution we go back to Christ again 'cause throughout the the Black Christ, "The Black Messiah," Jesus, a zealot. The impression of Christ throughout the ages been not just lily-white but also very pacific and very gentle to whom to whom harm has done and the other cheek is turned. And you're indicating that Jesus was a Zealot. Even the word zealot-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel With a capital Z-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Zealot.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. I think certainly J-Jesus was a Zealot. And I think some of his teachings have been misinterpreted because people have have lost the sense of nation that Jesus was struggling within the framework of an oppressed nation, struggling for for freedom. And they interpret, therefore, the things that Jesus said in terms of the Pauline interpretation, which came much later. Now, I think the "turn the other cheek" and "go the second mile," "if a man takes your coat, give him your cloak as well," "love your enemy," I think these are things that we're referring to to relationships within the black nation. When you're trying to bring a people together, they have to lean over backward to accept one another. And certainly that's necessary for black people today. We can see that the black middle-class has to lean over backward to accept black people who have less in the way of material possessions and all the other things. And I think Jesus was saying, "You have to go the second mile, turn the other cheek," because we want all black people together, because we have one struggle. I think even the parable of the Good Samaritan was was essentially an effort to bring in a a a despised outcast group of Jews because the Samaritans were really Jews but they they they were followers of Abraham and Jacob, but they had broken off at a certain point and they worshiped on the mountain instead of going to the temple in Jerusalem. And I think Jews-- Jesus de-deliberately picked the Samaritan as the good person which would be the same thing in a in a black community to pick the the downtrodden, the ADC mother-

Studs Terkel Mhmm.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. And use that as as an illustration because black people tend to reflect the the prejudice and discrimination of the larger community and look down on

Studs Terkel on- Middle-class

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Segments of black people. Yes, middle-class black people. So I think Jesus was trying in in every way possible, and and and I think these are the areas in which he's so misinterpreted by the by the by the white traditional church. He was trying to get black people to see the problem and to realize that unity was was the the the thing that they had to struggle for.

Studs Terkel You're speaking of his arrival, that certain moment, his arrival of Jerusalem too. You're comparing that with a a demonstration, a great march of solidarity in Detroit.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel And yet those slight differences, too.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah.

Studs Terkel It

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. I think, of course, Ju-Jesus when he arrived in in Jerusalem, had turned his face steadfastly to Jerusalem because he realized that that the forces of opposition were closing in on him, that he was he was being hounded as a as a as a political suspect. He was he stirs up the people. And when he was crucified, he was crucified on the grounds of having stirred up the people and pretending to be king of the Jews. And so he went to Jerusalem because it was the center. And he didn't wanna, he said, what did he say? "It's not fitting for a prophet to die outside of Jerusalem." If if you're gonna be killed for-- as a part of a movement, then go to the center where everybody can know what's happening and it it can be properly interpreted. And so so Jesus did this when he went to Jerusalem. But certainly it wasn't a triumphant entry in the in the sense that we often think about it on Palm Sunday. There were few people there. They were, he had some followers in Jerusalem and some who were with him. But it had-- it was in no wise as large as the triumphant movement we had in De-- in Detroit where the Freedom March, where Dr. King came, and 250 or 300,000 people marched up Woodward Avenue at in a sympathy demonstration for what was happening in the South and in a protest against what was happening in the North. Or the the Freedom March in Washington D.C. which which again was a a a kind of a protest and I think with Jesus sometimes we tend to make 'em all rituals and and religious services without realizing those were real people participating in a

Studs Terkel So we come back to that, there he came only a few people around at that moment, this is the minority, as some would say the prophetic minority.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel In a sense it always is a-- in beginning it is always would seem to be a minority,

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. doesn't That's

Studs Terkel That reflects, though, deep deep deep the feelings and [co-op?] that they be of a great many others.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right. Speaking for people, even speaking thoughts that they don't yet know they have. And that, and I think that's why, the insights of Jesus when he he wept as he looked down at Jerusalem before he entered because they knew not the moment of their visitation, they didn't realize the possibilities of the moment and that that's so often the case.

Studs Terkel There's something else, in one of the sermons, you speak of the co-opting of something that could be rich and yet used by society, the white society, for commercial purposes. For in the sad case they have Clara Ward Singers singing at Las Vegas.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah.

Studs Terkel And the guys who, the very guys there with rings on their fingers and if not bells on their toes, certainly have taken the very people whom Clara Ward presumably represents, but liking this music but has no connection with 'em at all.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah.

Studs Terkel Even though she may singing-- she may be singing in the upper room.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah.

Studs Terkel That might

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. I I like the Clara Ward Singers, they're beautiful singers.

Studs Terkel Yes.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. And their records are beautiful, but they they should be singin' in a church. And to see them singin' in in Las Vegas in a in a nightclub, and and actually the a sense of tommin' and clownin' up the the spirituals is was a horrible sight.

Studs Terkel Do you know, there's something as you're talking now about the co-opting of that which is good by sib-- also there's another aspect here, I'm thinking about that moment as Christ is crucified, the people cried, "Crucify," the people crying "Crucify him." And this could deal with poor whites, too, poor whites or low-middle class whites who are not-- who are themselves may be powerless without realizing it-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Are saying "Crucify" in a sense today, too.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel That that powerlessness makes them-- this applies to people of all color. Powerlessness can make a people furious and angry and violent.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right. It

Studs Terkel And and so they, how they crucify-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. It

Studs Terkel Jesus. Who was this crowd around the cross that hollered "Crucify Jesus"?

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah. the-

Studs Terkel Who

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. The very people that he had been trying to help. And 'course it's, I think another little interesting factor of the the sc-- the of the the scene when Jesus was was before Pontius Pilate-- and the crowd was there and he asked, "Who do you want Barabbas or Jesus?" And the crowd wanted Barabbas. Now, I think it's pretty obvious that Barabbas was a part of the same revolutionary movement that Jesus was a part of. Barabbas was an extremist. He he was a terrorist. And he probably-- he had been blowing up buildings and advising people not to to pay taxes to Rome. He was a part of the underground part of the the revolution. But he was a hero in the eyes of people who wanted to fight against oppression but were afraid to do it themselves. Now Jesus was the visible head and the things that he had advised people to do, the the trying to bring together a black nation, was revolutionary but not in the sense of of terror such as Barabbas represented. And I-I can imagine how how Barabbas must have felt as he heard the crowd screaming for him in preference to Jesus, when Jesus actually was his leader. And he was a part of the same movement that Jesus was a part of. And Jesus must have known it, too, as you heard them scream for Barabbas, because it was the crowd picking the the the extreme-

Studs Terkel Mm.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Element of a of a revolution rather than the the the visible leadership that had tried to to keep itself-

Studs Terkel The creative aspect.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right. To keep itself free to to to maneuver during this this very critical period.

Studs Terkel Because of their own powerlessness.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right.

Studs Terkel We come back to that

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. This one they, this one they could identify with.

Studs Terkel [coughs] And there are so many aspects in this book, "The Black Messiah," Sheed and Ward, the publishers of-- our guest is Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr., who is the the clergyman, about to say shepherd, and I I notice that you probably were not 'cause you're part of the community of the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Detroit. And it's a powerful one. I'm thinking about so many as-- if we could come back to this matter of the of contributions of the the plural aspect, 'course some will say, "Gee, is Reverend Cleage a separatist?" Indeed you are speaking of two separate cultures in our society, aren't you?

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right.

Studs Terkel There's a phrase called pluralism, is that attract you in any way, this idea which is just you

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah, in in a sense, if we use it if we use

Studs Terkel it- Yeah.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Correctly. I think black people are separate, not by choice, but by white design. But I think at the same time, we've gone through certain stages of trying to to lose ourselves in white society and now at this time we've gone back to try to rediscover ourselves: African beginnings, African culture. And this this whole a whole process I think now has reached the stage where even if we would if the white man would change and he would say now, "I-I've been wrong all this time. W-We're gonna accept black people on a basis of equality." I think black people would say now, "It's it's very nice that you've changed. We react to the fact that you're different now, but we're still gonna maintain our black identity and our black culture." And that would be the kind of pluralism then, a people living in a in in a in a total society but maintaining and cherishing their own traditions and their own culture. Now I-I-I think that what value America has, and it's it's degenerates you know in many many periods, has been the fact that many ethnic groups have tried to preserve their culture in in America, and the melting pot hadn't melted completely so that there have been some ethnic cultures preserved. And I think the the bla-black America now will become perhaps more self-conscious than anyone else, because we tried harder to lose our culture and then rediscovered it and it becomes more precious to

Studs Terkel Do you see, this 'course is at this moment, very academic. Eventually the word integration, som-- eventually, after a people are fully discovered themselves, and are fully considered by others, men. Also the white man, too, will discover himself eventually-- perhaps a stage, though the integration and in a in a total sense, eventually at the same time each individual each individual culture being different. 'Know what I mean?

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Ah.

Studs Terkel For example, the newly emerging nations of the world, we know we we, generally we think of nationalism as something unhealthy, yet nationalism by people who've never had a nationhood or maybe centuries ago destroyed by kidnappers. Finding this nation, it might be this very necessary moment and stage.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel In a way, wouldn't the parallel apply here?

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. I think so. I-I think if if there is ever to come a time when black people are to be accepted in a total society, we have to go through this this stage when black people learn to accept themselves, learn to have pride in their culture and in their background. And whether white people ever accept black people or not becomes almost non-relevant to the to the development, but certainly white people would never be in a position to accept black people or black people to accept white people unless black people had learned to accept themselves

Studs Terkel Well, it's also a question of the white man accepting himself too-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right.

Studs Terkel And this question, there-- won't there sort of be a dynamic at work? In other words, you say, integration-- well we have an integrated army, well forgetting all the racism involved that we find here. But let's assume-- so what is integration if a black and white soldier, together, kill a little brown man, somewhere in a rice paddy. That is not integration.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel You're talking about in which humanity itself alters the very nature-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah, a sense of of people respecting themselves and respecting other people. I think America has caused the most horrible record of any nation in in terms of non-respect for other peoples. The-- it was it's it's impossible to conceive of America dropping the atom bomb on a white nation as as America dropped th-the bomb on Japan. Or it's impossible really to conceive of the the widespread use of napalm and and and horror weapons in on a white nation that America uses in Vietnam. And I think all of it indicates the kind of of white supremacy conception of the world that that America still has. And certainly America is gonna have to find some way, white America, some way to escape from this kind of white racism if America is going to exist in the world, because it's it's it's still a tiny tiny tiny fragment of the world.

Studs Terkel On that point, a tiny fraction of the world, if a man-- how is that? If man was created in God's image, you point out here somewhere, and if God is white or if his son, theologically speaking now of Christ, is white, why is seven eighths of the world non-white? Is the question you asked.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's-- Yes it's it's a it's a it's a naive kind of a of a question but it's interesting one because if, you know, the Bible says that God created man in his own image, and we we quote it all the time as a as a statement. And certainly if if God created man in his own image and we look at the world, black people and brown people and yellow people and red people [coughs] and just a few white people, obviously then if God created man his own image, God is not white. He'd have to be a a combination of all these, and he certainly would come out far from white.

Studs Terkel Well if I were a gambler or a statistician who worked on figures, then I'd say the idea of Christ or God being white is a seven to one shot.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. [laughs] That's-

Studs Terkel What it amounts to.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right.

Studs Terkel We're having, Cleage, I know we're just touching on what is in your book, "The Black Messiah," now and the hour goes so quickly. Perhaps some thoughts come to your mind as we're talking now, since we connect past, present, centuries ago, and now. You see it all as one. Now a certain moment has come, quite obviously. Now a leap has occurred whether it be the Supreme Court decision, the bus boycotts, combination of many things. So a realization, you speak of the black man, a realization has come to him. That is that what he thinks now determines the way he acts, too-

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel Isn't it?

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm.

Studs Terkel And it's a question of the mistakes to be made, let it be my mistake.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's

Studs Terkel And not somebody else make it for me, whether it be one country tryin' to tell another country what to do. Whether it be the Soviets in Prague or us in Vietnam, let the mistakes be made by the people who live there. And learning from-- isn't this basically what it amounts to?

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. I think so. It's that's a part of the concept of self-determination. Let let let us control our own community. Let us undertake to do the things that we think, and white leadership control in our organizations and controlling our churches is just no longer acceptable. Black people will make mistakes, obviously we'll make mistakes in in politics and economics and everything else, but it's it's better for us to make our own mistakes than be dependent on on white leadership comin' and runnin' our organizations and our institutions and and molding them in their own image. It's just like this community control of schools with with black people fighting to control the educational-

Studs Terkel Ocean Hill, New York

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah, the the whole the whole thing. Black people now want want to to educate black children and to to t-to transmit bla-- the black cultural traditions and all of this. This is a part of the thing and the and the white teacher is a is a white power symbol in the school. And that's as important a reason as any other for for trying to get black teachers and black principals and black administrators in black ghetto schools.

Studs Terkel It's a question of the child then seeing someone: a black man, a black woman as principal as teacher. The very nature of that itself must do something to the black child.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. That's right. And for you know for a white teacher to say, "Well, I'm I'm just a better teacher than that then that particular black teacher that you put in there," is to miss the whole point of the thing. She may be a very gifted white teacher but she is is is a an inescapably a white symbol. And th-the white child comes out of a community where everything he sees that's worthwhile is white. And the whole the political sphere, the economic sphere, the policeman on the corner, everybody is white. And to go into a school and find you know another white symbol is to complete the structure.

Studs Terkel As Reverend Cleage is talking, I, a white man, think to myself now, the black revolution as it moves, it seems to me, frees naturally Reverend Cleage is thinking of the liberation of black people. To me it also seems may indeed liberate whites from preconceived notions from the Ubermensch philosophy, but also can free white kids who live in what I call the spiritual ghetto that may be in the suburb, that maybe wherever it is, where this idea that he is indeed better, you know, than someone else is. This myth. If that myth is shattered, then that white child has a chance to be liberated, too. It works two ways here.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Mhmm,

Studs Terkel The very dynamics of it. The book itself is "The Black Messiah." It's a collection-- is is this is-- how'd this come about? Just a someone heard about your your sermons. That must be something to really hear.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Yeah, well Sheed and Ward contacted me. They had heard about some-something about what we were doing, and and the editor wrote and asked, would I be interested in in doing a book for them? I-I had been interested, but I just hadn't taken the time and probably wouldn't have if they hadn't written and asked if I would. And so I said yes and I I selected sermons and edited them, so that I thought I was giving a rather complete picture of the of the kind of new theology that I think is important to the black church.

Studs Terkel The book is "The Black Messiah." It's Albert B. Cleage, Jr. C-L-E-A-G-U-E. She-

M12 G-E.

Studs Terkel C-A. C-L-E-A-U-G.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. No.

Studs Terkel G-E. Yeah. And that's quite a-- Sheed and Ward, the publish-- available now. I think Reverend Cleage is rightfully so, too, considered America's most influential black religious leader today. It's an overwhelming experience and quite revealing indeed. Thank you very much.

Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr. Thank you.

Studs Terkel Reverend Albert B. Cleage, Jr.