The Black Coptic Church: Race and Imagination in a new Religion

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


From the Moorish Science Temple to the Peace Mission Movement of Father Divine to the Commandment Keepers sect of Black Judaism, myriad Black new religious movements developed during the time of the Great Migration. Many of these stood outside of Christianity, but some remained at least partially within the Christian fold. The Black Coptic Church is one of these.

Black Coptics combined elements of Black Protestant and Black Hebrew traditions with Ethiopianism as a way of constructing a divine racial identity that embraced the idea of a royal Egyptian heritage for its African American followers, a heroic identity that was in stark contrast to the racial identity imposed on African Americans by the white dominant culture. This embrace of a royal Blackness—what McKinnis calls an act of “fugitive spirituality”—illuminates how the Black Coptic tradition in Chicago and beyond uniquely employs a religio-performative imagination.

McKinnis asks, ‘What does it mean to imagine Blackness?’ Drawing on ten years of archival research and interviews with current members of the church, The Black Coptic Church offers a look at a group that insisted on its own understanding of its divine Blackness. In the process, it provides a more complex look at the diverse world of Black religious life in North America, particularly within non-mainstream Christian churches.
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherNYU Press
Number of pages256
ISBN (Electronic)9781479816477, 9781479816484
ISBN (Print)9781479816460, 9781479816453
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Publication series

NameReligion, Race, and Ethnicity


  • Black Religion
  • Self-fashioning
  • Religion-racial
  • Ethiopianism
  • Prophet Cicero Patterson
  • Religion and Ethnography
  • Religion and Identity
  • New Religious Movements
  • Black Coptic Church
  • Performative Imagination


Dive into the research topics of 'The Black Coptic Church: Race and Imagination in a new Religion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this