Father Divine papers
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
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.
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.
Arranged by record type.
Purchase, 1997, with subsequent additions.
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.
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- African American clergy. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- African American evangelists. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- African Americans--Religion. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Christian sects--United States. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Clergy. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Evangelist. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Evangelists' spouses--United States. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Photographs. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Sermons, American--African American authors. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Sermons. Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- 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
- December 8, 2014: Restricted container lists (OBV1-4) identified in finding aid.
- July 29, 2015: Finding aid revised to include enhanced metadata tagging.