From Labor to Reward—Black Church Beginnings in San Francisco Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond—1849–1972 is an epic story of black people sojourning from the south to the Pacific Coast and starting their own independent churches in a social context of discriminatory practices. Martha Taylor takes us on a journey through four time frames; Gold Rush (1849–1909), First Migration (1910–1939), Second Great Migration (1940–1949), and the Civil Rights Era (1950–1972).

Imagine leaving the Deep South, migrating to California only to discover the same adversities of racism, housing discrimination, KKK threats of violence and other socio-political barriers existed in “free California.” Black Church beginnings was birthed in enclaves based on racial covenants in the Bay Area. With perseverance, patience and purpose, the first black church in the Bay Area was birthed in 1850. C. Eric Lincoln best describes the importance of the black church in this manner: The Black Church has always been the social, cultural, political, location for the Black Community. It was their school, their forum, the political arena, their social club, their art gallery, their conservatory of music. It was lyceum and gymnasium as well as sanctum sanctorum. Their religion was the peculiar sustaining force that gave them the strength to endure when endurance gave no promise

Martha C. Taylor combines the religious, socio-political and economic experiences of black people who came to the Bay Area in California seeking a better life. Readers will travel back in time and hear the voices from “within” the church and community as they share the joys, frustrations and unity of black pioneers who brought their culture, traditions and experiences from the South, and who were met with adversities similar to the Deep South, yet built vibrant communities.

From Labor to Reward is a brilliantly written story using multiple sources of research and interviews including church records, books, newspaper clippings and other written sources to tell this unknown story. This book is destined to be a classic reference source for seminaries, laity, universities, colleges, professors, clergy, churches and libraries and will hold the interest of academic and non-academic persons.

From Labor to Reward is pioneering in that it is the first and only book of its kind. Second, avoiding the totalizing approach of a general historical account, the book anchors its analysis in the particularity of interviews and primary archival work from the Bay Area. Third, it successfully defends the claim that the Bay Area remains one of the nation’s vibrant, though challenged centers for black church energy. Perhaps the greatest significance of this study is that we, for the first time, we hear the voices of the people. These are the voices of the left out and the marginalized, the ones who are centered in the major historical story by Dr. Martha C. Taylor. Thus Taylor’s herculean project fills in a huge void in American religious history, black religious history and traditions of the black church. She now enters the ranks of those experts of Southern, East Coast, and Midwest African American church history scholars."

— Dwight N. Hopkins, Professor of Theology, University of Chicago Divinity School, author of Being Human: race, culture, and religion

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