In the early 1900s, an African-American man named Reverend M.J. Divine — the son of emancipated slaves — began a religious movement that would reach more than a million followers at its peak, crossing racial divisions and advocating for gender and economic equality. Preaching that he was an incarnation of God, Father Divine insisted that his adherents could live forever in “heaven on earth” by following his rules of purity and celibacy. His movement, dedicated to integration and communal living, was an innovator in desegregating neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and the ballot box in the 1930s and 1940s through his radical program of empowerment. But scandal, suspicion, and racism led to clashes with the law. Though he was once a celebrity, and was decades ahead of his time in fighting for civil rights, he has largely been written out of history because of the audacity of his religious claims and doubts about his motives. “Father’s Kingdom” both relates this fascinating history and documents the efforts of his last few remaining followers to keep Father Divine’s legacy alive.
Film CategoryLeon & Mary Strauss Documentary Spotlight Mean Streets: Viewing the Divided City Through the Lens of Film and Television Race in America: The Black Experience
SubjectHuman Rights Religion/Faith
John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics