Black Fire is the first-ever collection of the writings of African American Quakers, from colonial times to the 20th century. Selections are included from the writings of 18 remarkable individuals including correspondence of Benjamin Banneker, an astronomer, son of a freed slave, who exchanged letters with Thomas Jefferson on the injustices of slavery; an 1813 petition to Congress by maritime entrepreneur Paul Cuffe, who traded with Sierra Leone and used his wealth to promote the cause of abolition; the deeply spiritual literary writings of Jean Toomer, pioneer of the Harlem Renaissance; memoirs of human rights activist Mahala Ashley Dickerson, first African American woman admitted to the Alabama bar; and the pacifist arguments of Bayard Rustin, advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr., and of Bill Sutherland, who worked with nonviolent revolutionists in South Africa. Also included are interpretation of classic Quaker texts by the popular 20th century minister Howard Thurman and the poetry of Helen Morgan Brooks.
Black Fire is a landmark book that reframes our understanding of Quakerism, for it highlights the degree to which American Quakers were interracial almost from the outset, with black leaders shaping Friends spiritual and reform visions. Brilliantly conceived and beautifully edited, it should be required reading for anyone interested in American religion and reform. — John Stauffer, Chair of History of American Civilization at Harvard and the author of the award-winning Black Hearts of Men and GIANTS: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
“Black Fire is a unique, much-needed contribution to the continuing conversation about religion and race in the United States, and the place of Quakers in it. The editors have created what may well be the definitive anthology.” — Tom Hamm, Quaker historian