James Cone, 'founder of black liberation theology,' dies at 79

The Rev. James Cone, known as the father of black liberation theology, and the Bill & Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, died April 28, 2018. (Courtesy of Union Theological Seminary)

Adelle M. Banks

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James H. Cone, the scholar known as the "founder of black liberation theology," died April 28, Union Theological Seminary announced.

He was 79.

The author of such books as "Black Theology & Black Power" and "God of the Oppressed" joined the faculty of the New York City seminary in 1969.

A native of Fordyce, Ark., Cone was an ordained minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was promoted to the position of full professor of theology in 1973 at Union and was named the Bill & Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology in 2017. He taught and researched Christian theology at the seminary, focusing on black liberation theology and the liberation theologies of Africa, Latin America and Asia. He also taught about 19th- and 20th-century European-American theologies.

Cornel West, Harvard University professor of the practice of public philosophy, summed up the life of his friend and colleague: "James Cone was the theological giant and genius in our midst! He was the greatest liberation theologian to emerge in the American empire—and he never ever sold out."

A version of this story appeared in the May 18-31, 2018 print issue under the headline: James Cone, 'founder of black liberation theology,' dies at 79.

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