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Introduction Utopian Literature Dystopian Literature Utopian Communities


Placard advertising Father Divine’s mission

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The Peace Mission movement, led by the charismatic and controversial black preacher Father Divine, stands out among the communal utopias of America as an example of what might be called the “satellite utopia” phenomenon.

From 1919 to 1929, Father Divine quietly instructed a handful of disciples in a religion that blended Eastern mysticism, Christianity and communal ideals. Then in 1929 the widespread economic collapse stimulated wider interest in Divine’s communalism as a shield against both emotional and economic distress. The minister gained renown for presenting free Sunday banquets to all visitors and for helping needy guests find jobs. Crowds came regularly from Harlem and Newark, venerating this mysterious provider as a heaven-sent deliverer. Divine supported this notion; he insisted that he was God.

The Peace Mission was one of the earliest effective supporters of integration, stressing that black and white followers alike were loved by the Savior, Father Divine.

At its peak in the mid-30s, the movement had perhaps 10,000 hard-core followers who believed fervently in Father Divine’s deity, devoted all of their possessions to the Peace Mission, and lived in one of the more than 150 movement centers. A rapidly expanding bureaucracy oversaw a successful transition from a modest commune to a far-flung network that reportedly handled over $15 million in business annually by 1938.