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Father Divine papers

Identifier: Manuscript Collection No. 840

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of materials relating to Father Divine and the Peace Mission Movement from circa 1930-1996. The collection includes correspondence, printed material by and about Father Divine, photographs, ephemera, financial ledgers of the Divine Hotel Riviera (Newark, New Jersey), scrapbooks, and audiovisual materials.

The correspondence includes letters to and from Father Divine and his many followers from 1935-1971. The printed material consists of a variety of materials including brochures; postcards; International Peace Cards (which many of Father Divine's followers carried with them for protection); anniversary announcements; and programs from Peace Mission Movement events. The photographs contain images mostly of Father Divine, Mother Divine and their home, Woodmont (Gladwyne, Pennsylvania).

Ephemera includes mostly handmade objects created by Father Divine's Rosebuds including booklets and notebooks containing his teachings, buttons, banners, pennants, and some art work. The financial ledgers of the Divine Hotel Riviera located in Newark, New Jersey, contain a list of lodgers and the rates they paid; as well as expenses incurred by the hotel from 1950-1954. The scrapbooks contain clippings from The New Day (1934-1935, 1951-1955) and the New York News (1933-1935); message cards; and The New Day Reading Class of Unity Mission Church Bible Institute, Excerpt Book, September 24, 1963. The audiovisual material includes cassette recordings of the "Word of GOD Revealed" program read by Mother Divine and songs by the Rosebud Choir and a phonographic recording of "Father Divine Praise Medley" and "Excerpts from Righteous Government Meeting, November 9, 1939."


  • circa 1930-1996

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Biographical Note

Father Divine, formerly known as George Baker Jr., is believed to have been born around 1879 in Rockville, Maryland. While the early life of his father, George Baker Sr., is unclear, his mother, Nancy, had previously been a slave. After leaving Rockville around 1899, he noticed that African American churches were often not socially active and decided that the influence of the church could be used to enact social change. After years as an itinerate preacher, he settled in New York during World War I and eventually founded The Peace Mission Movement, which provided relief to the poor and sought to break down segregation by eliminating among followers all use of words related to race or color. He also taught his followers to reject the idea of an afterlife. Instead, Father Divine encouraged his followers to strive for eternal life on Earth by finding unity with God's internal spirit. The Peace Mission was and is a celibate community and followers strive to live pure lives in harmony with one another. He and his followers believe that he is the Messiah and Savior of humankind.

His first wife Peninniah, better known as Mother Divine, died in 1943, but Father Divine saw her as reincarnated in Edna Rose Ritchings whom he married in 1946. In 1965, Father Divine died; however, his followers believe that he "laid his body down" as a judgment on humankind for ignoring his teachings, Mother Divine and many followers believe that his spirituality is still present and that he made the supreme sacrifice for humans and will eventually resurrect himself.


8 linear feet (16 boxes) (3 oversized papers papers boxes and 3 oversized papers folders (OP); 3 extra-oversized papers (XOP); 7 oversized bound volumes (OBV); AV Masters: .25 linear feet (1 box))


Papers relating to African American evangelist Father Divine and the Peace Mission Movement including correspondence, writings, photographs, printed material, and memorabilia.

Arrangement Note

Arranged by record type.


Purchase, 1997, with subsequent additions.

Separated Material

Pamphlets, monographs and periodicals included in the collection have been cataloged separately. These materials may be located in the Emory University online catalog by searching for: Father Divine.


Processed by Susan Potts McDonald, April 2011

In 2014, Emory Libraries conservation staff cleaned, repaired, and reformatted the scrapbooks numbered OBV1 and OBV2 as part of the National Parks Service funded Save America's Treasures grant to preserve African American scrapbooks in the Rose Library's holdings. The original substrate pages of OBV2 were too fragile to bear mending, so the newspaper clippings in that scrapbook were completely removed. When the Rose Library acquired the scrapbook it was not bound and the pages were not in any discernible order, so conservators reorganized the newspaper clippings chronolgoically to enhance access. Detailed conservation reports are available from the repository upon request.

This finding aid may include language that is offensive or harmful. Please refer to the Rose Library's harmful language statement for more information about why such language may appear and ongoing efforts to remediate racist, ableist, sexist, homophobic, euphemistic and other oppressive language. If you are concerned about language used in this finding aid, please contact us at

Father Divine papers, 1930-1996
Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University
October 31, 2006
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • December 8, 2014: Restricted container lists (OBV1-4) identified in finding aid.
  • July 29, 2015: Finding aid revised to include enhanced metadata tagging.

Repository Details

Part of the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library Repository

540 Asbury Circle
Atlanta Georgia 30322 United States