The Atlantic

When Passover Is About American Slavery

A plantation houseboy grew up to be a prophet—and inspired a religious movement.
Source: Courtesy of Church of God and Saints of Christ

More than 1,000 men and women gathered this past week in coastal Virginia to celebrate Passover and retell the ancient story of how Moses led the Israelites from bondage to freedom. They were observing holiday traditions that Jews all across the world observe—only these celebrants were not Jews.

Their memories of slavery and liberation concerned not a distant past in Egypt, but a story set in the United States. Their prophet was an African American man born into slavery. He preached to a Christian audience, telling them to incorporate Hebraic practices into their faith out of a desire to return to the true Church as he envisioned it, and based his new Church on both Old and New Testaments. Their Promised Land was a plot in Virginia where descendants of black men and women could gather and be safe from the scourge of white supremacy.

Temple Beth El in Belleville is the headquarters of the Church

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