Remembering Dr. James Cone

James Cone was the first black doctoral candidate at Garrett Biblical Institute. In 1987 he was hnored by the seminary as a Distinguished Alum.~GETS photo

A theological giant, the Rev. Dr. James Cone, died on April 28. At one time he taught at Adrian College.
The Rev. James H. Cone, recognized as the “founder of black liberation theology,” died April 28, 2018 at the age of 79. Cone joined the faculty of Union Theological seminary I New York City in 1969.

In an obituary published by Religion News Service, national reporter Adelle M. Banks quoted Union President Serene Jones: “To say his death leaves a void is a staggering understatement. His prophetic voice, deep kindness, and fierce commitment to black liberation embodied not just the very best of our seminary, but of the theological field as a whole and of American prophetic thought and action.”  

The Rev. Dr. Chris Momany, Chaplain and Professor at Adrian College, remembers Dr. Cone and his ties to Michigan. “Dr. Cone was an intellectual giant who taught at Adrian College during the late 1960s,” Momany said.

He continued, “Following the Detroit uprising of 1967 and the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April of 1968, Dr. Cone was deeply troubled.” Cone was teaching at Adrian College, during the summer of 1968 when he wrote what Momany calls, “his break-out book, Black Theology and Black Power. The tome was published in 1969. “He was a Christian theologian but angry that white America had domesticated the gospel for racist purposes,” Momany added.

The Adrian Chaplain gained insight into the writing of the book during a conversation with Cone in 2002. “I picked him up at Metro Airport, and we drove into Adrian for a lecture,” Momany recalls. Enroute Cone requested a drive-by of his old house in Adrian. “He told me that during the summer of 1968 he remodeled the basement of his home, hung drywall, and then painted it blue. He pulled out a stack of vinyl records from blues greats and began to write,” Chris related. In a little over one month his book was finished.

“Black Theology and Black Power became a national sensation, and soon Dr. Cone was hired away from Adrian College by Union Theological Seminary, New York.”

Dr. Cone returned to Adrian College in 2003 to receive an honorary degree from the school. He is remembered as a Distinguished Alumnus of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Read their tribute here.

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