The Cross and the Lynching Tree

by James H. Cone

Paperback, 2013





History. Sociology. African American Nonfiction. Nonfiction. The cross and the lynching tree are the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African American community. In this powerful work, theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and souls of black folk.


Orbis (2013), Edition: Reprint, 224 pages


Independent Publisher Book Awards (Gold — Religion — 2012)

Media reviews

Library Journal
Cone calls for us to remember the lynching tree now to foster a Christianity that goes beyond empty pieties and fully embraces Jesus's teachings on suffering, the poor, and faith. While some readers may wish that Cone would recognize more nuance in white understanding of black suffering, this is
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essential reading.
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(37 ratings; 4.5)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ted_newell
Unforgettable and a total rebuke of old white culture. What happened in the American South happened in Canada happened in King Leopold's Congo. The black church rocks and its people won through incredible hatred and obstacles. Read the book. Hard to fathom. Lord have mercy.
LibraryThing member heggiep
Although a bit repetitive, this is an enlightening, powerful, and carefully presented book. There is enough material covered in it that an essay on the topic would not have sufficed. A good read during these troubling #BlackLivesMatter days.
LibraryThing member bookworm12
The author compares the lynchings of black people to the crucifixion of Christ. While there's a fascinating and accurate parallel, not much was said beyond giving a history of lynching and showing the hypocrisy of white Christians who were involved in them. I wish it was slightly less repetitive
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and dove a bit deeper into what that parallel should mean for Christians. The most powerful moments came from his explanation of the song "Strange Fruit" and the description of lynchings witnessed by young black people like Martin Luther King Jr.'s father. It's a heartbreaking piece of our history, but one that is absolutely critical that we don't forget or look away from.

"When we remember we give voice to the victims."
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LibraryThing member DrFuriosa
This is an original concept and glimpse at American theology by juxtaposing the lynching tree with the Christian Cross. The analogy fades in and out, but Cone draws literature, history, music, and art to weave a rich tapestry of work.

I will say that this is not really a book for the average
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public. The chapter on Niebuhr is dry and academic in focus, plus Cone assumes that his audience knows liberation theology, and I do not. Nevertheless, a provocative book with an urgent and timely focus.
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LibraryThing member b.masonjudy
A powerful and provocative read that calls attention to a connection that in Cone's writing seems almost self-evident but has been obfuscated by White supremacist thinking. I found some of the analysis to be a bit meandering, in the way of essays exploring a topic, which surprised me as I expected
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a more academic analysis.
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LibraryThing member deusvitae
The author's meditations on considering lynching and the lynching tree as a means by which to view the crucifixion of Jesus in the Black American experience.

The author described the horror of lynching: the actual event, the pretense about justice but the real purpose involving constant
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terrorization of the Black community, the tolerated violence, and the acquiescence of society in general to such things for generations. He draws the parallels between lynching as extrajudicial humiliation and degradation designed to terrorize the oppressed and reinforce the power of the oppressor and the experiences Jesus suffered on the cross.

The author analyzes Reinhold Niebuhr, so beloved as a theologian, and yet how he distanced himself on the issue of lynching and racial justice with a milquetoast disapproval without doing any concrete action to resist the status quo. He shows how Niebuhr was not significantly influenced by the Black Christian tradition in America the way that, say, Bonhoeffer was; the whole section reads as a great lament.

It is hard to put the experience of this book into words. Every white American Christian should read it and grapple with it, wrestling with how so many professed Jesus and yet participated in lynchings, and how so many want to hallow America's past as times in which America was a "Christian nation" and people tried to "honor God"...and yet lynchings were pervasive in the latter part of the 19th and the first two thirds of the 20th centuries, and they were either participated in or tacitly not condemned. It proves very difficult to countenance the proposition such could be considered a "Christian nation," and anyone who would try to maintain such a pretense and consider this some "unfortunate exception" tells on themselves.

For generations white Americans had the opportunity to serve Black people as if they were Jesus (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). Instead, they often lynched Him. The horror is real. The horror is awful. What kind of people do we prove to be if we can't handle it and try to look away and pretend otherwise?
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LibraryThing member KallieGrace
Excellent and heartbreaking and quite the reckoning. The Christian God is a god of the oppressed. Those without power take solace in the cross and what came after. America was never a Christian nation, not with a history of violence like this. When will we stop being the oppressors.
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