Leonard C. McKinnis - "The Black Coptic Church"

Thursday, September 21, 2023 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Leonard C. McKinnis

Leonard C. McKinnis will discuss The Black Coptic Church: Race and Imagination in a New Religion.

This event will be held in person at The Seminary Co-op


About the book: 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 Otherwise?’ 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.

About the author: Leonard C. McKinnis, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Religion and Black Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on questions of religion and the construction of Black identity. Prof. McKinnis is the author of The Black Coptic Church: Race and Imagination in a New Religion (NYU Press). He is presently working on an ethnographic project on the Nation of Islam.

Event Location: 
Seminary Co-op Bookstores
5751 S Woodlawn Ave
Chicago, IL 60615