Black Hebrew Israelites (also called Hebrew Israelites, Black Hebrews, Black Israelites, and African Hebrew Israelites) are groups of African Americans who believe that they are the descendants of the ancient Israelites. Some sub-groups believe that Native and Latin Americans are descendants of the Israelites as well.
Frank S Cherry (c. 1875-1963) was the founder and leader of one of the early Black Hebrew Israelite groups in the United States.
Little is known about Cherry's early and adult life, but we do know that he was born in the Southern United States. He did not go to school but educated himself in both Hebrew and Yiddish and worked as a sailor, during which he claims to have been declared a prophet. He was a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, and member of the Big Brothers organization.
Cherry claimed to have a vision that African Americans are the descendants of the ancient Israelites, during his time abroad. He then established and led a congregation in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1886, where he preached that white people were inherently evil and hated by God. He would attempt to spread this belief in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he established the Church of God in 1915. Tenets of his group, known as the Church of the Living God, the Pillar Ground of Truth for All Nations, included Black Nationalism and support for Marcus Garvey. Cherry also espoused antisemitism, claimed that the earth is square, and professed that Jesus would return in the year 2000 to start a race war.
After his death, he was succeeded as the church's leader by his son Prince Benjamin F. Cherry.
- Michel, David (2013). "Cherry, Frank S." Oxford African American Studies Center. doi:10.1093/acref/9780195301731.013.35524. ISBN 978-0-19-530173-1. Retrieved 2021-04-25.
- Fernheimer, Janice W. (2014). Stepping Into Zion: Hatzaad Harishon, Black Jews, and the Remaking of Jewish Identity. University of Alabama Press. p. 10. ISBN 9780817318246.
One of these groups, Prophet Cherry's Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of Truth is the oldest known Black Judaic sect. It was originally established in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1886. Prophet Cherry argued they were part of the original Israelite tribes chased from Babylonia (and, they claim, into Central and Western Africa where they were later sold into slavery) by the Romans in 70 CE.
- Butts, Jimmy (21 July 2017). "The Origin and Insufficiency of the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement". CRI.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, a man named Frank Cherry claimed to receive a vision through which God told him to present the message that African Americans are the true descendants of the biblical Hebrews. This eventually resulted in the establishment of the Church of the Living God, the Pillar Ground of Truth for All Nations in Chattanooga, Tennessee, around 1886.
- "History of Hebrew Israelism". Southern Poverty Law Center.
- Hutchinson, Dawn (2010). Antiquity and Social Reform: Religious Experience in the Unification Church, Feminist Wicca and Nation of Yahweh. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 139. ISBN 9781443823081.
The first was the Church of the Living God, the Pillar Ground of Truth for All Nations founded by F.S. Cherry in 1886 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Cherry preached that Adam, Eve, and Jesus were black and that African Americans lost their Hebrew identity during slavery. Later, William S. Crowdy founded the Church of God and Saints of Christ in 1896 in Lawrence, Kansas. Crowdy taught that blacks were heirs of the lost tribes of Israel, while white Jews were descendants of inter-racial marriages between Israelites and white Christians.
- Rubel, Nora L. (2009). "'Chased Out of Palestine': Prophet Cherry's Church of God and Early Black Judaisms in the United States". In Curtis IV, Edward E.; Sigler, Danielle Brune (eds.). The New Black Gods: Arthur Huff Fauset and the Study of African American Religions. Indiana University Press. p. 51-56. ISBN 9780253004086.
- Gallagher, Eugene V. (22 January 2019). Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America [Five Volumes]. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313050787.
- Parfitt, Tudor (4 February 2013). Black Jews in Africa and the Americas. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674071506.
- Baer, Hans A.; Jones, Yvonne (April 10, 1992). African Americans in the South: Issues of Race, Class, and Gender. University of Georgia Press. p. 130 – via Internet Archive.
prince benjamin f. cherry.
- "A Case of Mistaken Identity: Black Jews & Hebrew Israelites". TribeHerald.com. Retrieved 2022-04-24.
- Black Gods of the Metropolis; Negro Religious Cults of the Urban North by Arthur Fauset, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1944
William Saunders Crowdy (August 11, 1847 – August 4, 1908) was an American soldier, preacher, entrepreneur, theologian, and pastor. and was also one of the earliest known Black Hebrew Israelite in the United States, he established the Church of God and Saints of Christ in 1896 after he claimed to have had visions telling him "That blacks were descendants of the twelve lost tribes of Israel."
William Saunders Crowdy
Wilson Saunders Crowdy
August 11, 1847
|Died||August 4, 1908 (aged 60)|
|Resting place||Triangle Cemetery, Suffolk, Virginia|
|Organization||Church of God and Saints of Christ|
|Movement||Black Hebrew Israelites|
United States Army
|Years of service||1863–1872|
|Unit||5th Cavalry Regiment|
|Battles/wars||American Civil War|
In 1847, William Saunders Crowdy was born into slavery at the Chilsy Hills Farm, a plantation in Charlotte Hall, Maryland. His father was Basil Crowdy, a deeply religious man who oversaw the drying of clay for the plantation's brick kiln. His mother, Sarah Ann, was a cook, which often got her access to the "big house" despite her status as a slave. Crowdy was originally called "Wilson" by his overseer. Crowdy was born in a one-room slave cabin near the Patuxent River in the middle of a violent nighttime thunderstorm. Crowdy lived his early life in bondage working first by milking the plantation owner's cows. As he grew older he was assigned by the slave overseer to tend the plantation's melon patch, and then to work as a stable boy and tobacco drier.
Plantation life during the 19th Century was hard, Crowdy's overseer would punish slaves brutally. Despite it being illegal for slaves to read, Crowdy was a religious and caring man from a young age and learned about the Hebrew prophets, especially Elijah. According to oral history Crowdy was beaten by the slavemaster at age 7 for taking too much cornpone from the ration cook to feed his sister. He spent the night locked in a barn for punishment but prayed to Moses to be released from bondage of his captors. Ten years to the day later, in 1863, at age 17, Crowdy escaped from his master after an argument.
Crowdy shed the name Wilson, regarding it as a slave name, and became William, which he then used to enlist in the Union Army. He immediately took a job as quartermaster's cook. He joined the United States Colored Troops 19th Regiment of Maryland along with his half-brother Daniel.
Crowdy's unit was raised at Benedict, Maryland on December 19, 1863, when the United States Government offered compensation to his enslavers for his freedom to fight. During the Civil War the 19th Regiment USCT fought at the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. Crowdy served as a laborer and supply storeman, and participated in the capture of a confederate flour wagon being smuggled into Petersburg, Virginia during the siege of Richmond. Crowdy remained in the Army after the war to become a Buffalo Soldier. He was promoted to quartermaster sergeant in the 5th Cavalry in 1867, receiving his discharge in 1872. He later became a cook on the Santa Fe railroad.
In 1893 Crowdy's behaviour became ”strange”; for example, he was not always aware of people talking to him ”but would sit staring for long periods of time”. He claimed to have had several visions in which he was told "that Black people were descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel." He proceeded to create the Church of God and Saints of Christ and is regarded as a founder of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement.
He started preaching in Guthrie, and then set up Tabernacles in Emporia and Lawrence, Kansas in 1896. In these early days he was arrested 22 times. After setting up another Tabernacle in Topeka, he spread his creed in Sedalia, Missouri, Chicago, and several cities in New York, establishing an Elder-in-Charge in each city before moving to the next.
In 1903, he bought 40 acres (160,000 m2) of land in Suffolk, Virginia, calling it "Canaan Land". More land was subsequently purchased by Bishop William H. Plummer and this is now the international headquarters of the denomination. In 1905 he sent missionaries to South Africa and by 1906 he declared Chief Joseph W. Crowdy, Bishop William H. Plummer, and Elder Calvin S. Skinner as future leaders of his congregation.
- Bleich, J. David (Spring–Summer 1975). "Black Jews: A Halakhic Perspective". Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought. 15 (1): 63. JSTOR 23258489.
Crowdy claimed to be the recipient of a series of revelations in which, among other things, he was told that Blacks were descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel.
- Elly M. Wynia, The Church of God and Saints of Christ: A History of the Black Jews Taylor and Francis Press, p. 19
- Beersheba C. Walker. The Life and Works of William S. Crowdy, E.J.P. Walker Press, 1955
- Gallagher, Eugene V.; Ashcraft, W. Michael (2006). Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America. Vol. 5. Greenwood. p. 62.
- "Slave name", Wikipedia, 2022-06-03, retrieved 2022-09-04
-  Civil War Regiment Records, National Park Service, Retrieved July 6, 2007
- "Soldier Demographic Information: Daniel Crowdy". College of Southern Maryland. 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-15.
- Jacob S. Dorman: Black Israelites aka Black Jews aka Black Hebrews: Black Israelism, Black Judaism, Judaic Christianity. In Eugene V. Gallagher & William M. Ashcraft (eds.): Introduction to New and Alternative Religions in America. Greenwood, 2006.
- Rubel, Nora L. (2009). "'Chased Out of Palestine': Prophet Cherry's Church of God and Early Black Judaisms in the United States". In Curtis IV, Edward E.; Sigler, Danielle Brune (eds.). The New Black Gods: Arthur Huff Fauset and the Study of African American Religions. Indiana University Press. p. 57. ISBN 9780253004086.
In 1893, Crowdy had a vision that resulted in the establishment of the Church of God and Saints in Christ.
- "A Case of Mistaken Identity: Black Jews & Hebrew Israelites". TribeHerald.com. Retrieved 2022-04-24.