American Prophets sheds critical new light on the lives and thought of seven major prophetic figures in twentieth-century America whose social activism was motivated by a deeply felt compassion for those suffering injustice.
In this compelling and provocative book, acclaimed religious scholar Albert Raboteau tells the remarkable stories of Abraham Joshua Heschel, A. J. Muste, Dorothy Day, Howard Thurman, Thomas Merton, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Fannie Lou Hamer—inspired individuals who succeeded in conveying their vision to the broader public through writing, speaking, demonstrating, and organizing. Raboteau traces how their paths crossed and their lives intertwined, creating a network of committed activists who significantly changed the attitudes of several generations of Americans about contentious political issues such as war, racism, and poverty. Raboteau examines the influences that shaped their ideas and the surprising connections that linked them together. He discusses their theological and ethical positions, and describes the rhetorical and strategic methods these exemplars of modern prophecy used to persuade their fellow citizens to share their commitment to social change.
A momentous scholarly achievement as well as a moving testimony to the human spirit, American Prophets represents a major contribution to the history of religion in American politics. This book is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about social justice, or who wants to know what prophetic thought and action can mean in today's world.
Albert J. Raboteau is the Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion Emeritus at Princeton University. His books include Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South, A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History, and Canaan Land: A Religious History of African Americans. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
"This scholarly yet accessible primer to the role of faith in the lives of American activists challenges contemporary notions of the role of religion in politics and argues that empathy is a critical first step in addressing the suffering of others."--Publishers Weekly
"The subjects [of American Prophets] knew one another and participated, often shoulder-to-shoulder, in events like the great southern civil rights marches and the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations of the 1960s. As important, they wrote, spoke, and guided the movements. Let the study of them together start with these concise yet weighty appraisals."--Ray Olson, Booklist
"Raboteau offers inspiring and challenging examples of embodied faith in the modern world."--Library Journal
"Compelling and provocative. . . . A momentous scholarly achievement as well as a moving testimony to the human spirit, American Prophets represents a major contribution to the history of religion in American politics. This book is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about social justice, or who wants to know what prophetic thought and action can mean in today's world."--Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins, JewishMediaReview
"American Prophets invites the reader closer to the kind of faith that insists on justice. At its best, the book not only extends an invitation to see how figures of faith mobilized their communities, but reminds us that the prophetic spirit is still calling us to action."--Susan Haarman, Commonweal
"Written in lucid prose, Raboteau's seven luminous biographical sketches of such figures as Abraham Joshua Heschel, Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, and Thomas Merton tell a radical story. . . . Raboteau illuminates the historical and social connections that his radicals had with one another."--Choice
Table of Contents:
1 Abraham Joshua Heschel, Prophet of Divine Pathos 1
2 A. J. Muste: The Redemptive Power of Nonviolent Suffering 27
3 Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement: Doing the Works of Mercy 63
4 Howard Thurman: In Search of Common Ground 95
5 Thomas Merton: Contemplation in a World of Action 119
6 Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement: Religion in US Politics 141
7 “Is This America?” Fannie Lou Hamer and the Voices of Local People 163