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Introduction Utopian Literature Dystopian Literature Utopian Communities

The New Day

The New Day. Philadelphia: New Day Pub. Co. 1937-1973; Vol. 9, No. 49 December 8, 1945

Father Divine’s newsletter, published weekly from 1937 to 1973, provided him with a means of speaking to each of his thousands of disciples. It published his sermons and news of his daily life as well as news of the movement in general. Divine also used it to attack his enemies, notably the racist commune leader William Riker.

In the course of the speech headlined here, Father Divine announced:

pixel.gif “RECOGNIZE FATHER DIVINE! Nineteen hundred and thirty-nine, according to the press, Czechoslovakia was invaded. Nineteen hundred and thirty-eight I had sent them a Message warning different heads of the nation…had they taken cognizance of MY Message, there would not have been a World War today.”

Such claims were not unusual for Father Divine, and they were taken as truth by his steadily growing movement.

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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.