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The Cross and the Lynching Tree

4.4  ·  Rating Details ·  844 Ratings  ·  165 Reviews
A landmark in the conversation about race and religion in America.

"They put him to death by hanging him on a tree." Acts 10:39

The cross and the lynching tree are the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African American community. In this powerful new work, theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and so
Hardcover, 202 pages
Published 2011 by Orbis Books
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Mar 12, 2012 Scott rated it it was amazing
As one of the Associate Pastors at Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, one of my responsibilities was the bulletin boards in the hallways. I don't know that anyone gave me that job, so much as I took it on. I really enjoyed putting up various kinds of bulletin boards. I rarely was only informational. Often I put up something around a theme of the season (I did one after 9/11 with U2 songs, for instance).

My favourite bulletin board I designed, and one I hung up also at Royal
Andrew Marr
"They're selling postcards of the hanging
They're painting the passports brown."

White boys like me mostly didn't know what Bob Dylan was singing about when "Desolation Row" first came out on "Highway 61 Revisited." James Cone's book tells us it was about lynching. Lynching was a public spectacle where people took pictures and made postcards out of them.

Cone goes on to argue that the lynching tree was a series of grisly re-enactments of the crucifixion of Jesus. He also demonstrates on how very di
Ben De Bono
Nov 24, 2011 Ben De Bono rated it really liked it
To say that James Cone an I are theologically far apart would be a fairly significant understatement. I am a conservative evangelical while he is one of the primary voices behind black liberation theology, standing well within the liberal theological tradition. Despite those differences, I was very excited to read this book and, after finishing it, am very glad that I did. The reason for that is simple - I came to this book not to critique Cone's answers (I knew going in we would largely disagre ...more
Jan 14, 2012 Pearl rated it really liked it
In this book, Black Liberation Theologian James Cone explores the symbolic and historic connections between the crucifixion of Jesus and the lynching of Blacks in 19th and 20th century America. He asserts that understanding this connection is vital to the meaning of the cross and confronting it is vital to the health of Christian America.

For Cone, it is a personal struggle. How can he make sense of the awfulness of lynching - of Black suffering in America, of living under white supremacy - of b
Jun 02, 2017 Jacqueline rated it it was amazing
An extremely sharp and powerful read on the history of lynching African Americans and the relationship between racism, lynching, and Christianity as the religion of both the white oppressor and the Black oppressed. Cone focuses on the analogy between Black people being lynched and Christ being crucified and how these two events relate to each other in the experiences of Black Christians. A deeply unsettling and much needed book.
Levi Jones
Feb 22, 2017 Levi Jones rated it really liked it
James Cone's work is both brutal and beautiful. He exposes the rotting corpse of American life, exhibited most keenly in the lynching tree. America's sin of white supremacy was often perpetrated by those that were "Christians." Cone exposes the irony of such a practice, questioning how those who follow a crucified Lord can then turn around and crucify others. The parallels between the cross and the lynching tree are hard to miss. Yet, they were often missed or blatantly ignored by whites, includ ...more
Hye Sung
Jul 31, 2013 Hye Sung rated it it was amazing
This book spoke to me on so many levels and I confidently can say it is now one of my favorite books. My heart was stretched and throughout the book I was led to praise.
May 02, 2012 Chris rated it really liked it
So, here are my thoughts on the Cross and the Lynching Tree. First, I am shocked that this analogy has never been pointed out to me before. The book began with an eye opening insight into the public humiliation and shame of crucifixion. I found myself readily accepting the connection and deepening my awareness of Christ’s sacrifice as I read. However, as he moved forward, I felt a strong rejection of his scathing critique and wholesale rejection of white American Christianity. At first it offend ...more
Aug 11, 2013 Drick rated it it was amazing
Cone begins his book with a damning theological observation which he seeks to correct and address in this book: How could any theologian explain the meaning of Christian identity in America and fail to engage white supremacy,its primary negation." (p. xvii) From that point he then describes the history of lynching of African Americans (1880-1940)and links that to his reflection on the cross of Christ. He critiques the most prominent white theologian at the time, Reinhold Niebuhr, as one who saw ...more
Dec 25, 2011 Traci rated it really liked it
This is not the easiest book for me, but it has been a beautiful thing to read. It was recommended by a friend as a way to learn more about black liberation theology, and as my spring has been all wrapped up in planning events for the 50th anniversary of desegregation at the University of Miami, now was the right time to read it.

But I am not a Christian, I dont even know the bible very well, and I'm not black. I do know liberation theology, mostly from its history in latin america. My parents we
Fr. River

James Cone talks of the lynching tree in the history of black people. He criticizes the white church for its indifference, and its taking part in the lynching of black people, and its support of racism or its indifference from liberal supporters. It is a book that brings home to me the same indictment today in both racism and homophobia. The Church either actively takes part in its condemnation of queers or it is indifferent. Elbert Hubbard describ
May 17, 2013 Michael rated it it was amazing
I really did “like” this book. It made me think about Cone’s assertion that white - liberal and conservative theologians - never made connections between the cross and lynching. Not only did the black church make a lot of it - so did artists, musicians, poets and historians - African-American ones that is. On several levels this reminds me to really pay attention to what is happening around me. It reminds me to be humble about that which I might very well be missing - in what is happening around ...more
Jan 15, 2014 Tiffany rated it really liked it
A woman sitting next to me at the conference on Black and Womanist Theology at the University of Chicago in the fall of 2005 told me that James H. Cone is really more of the scholar than the preacher. But he suited me just fine that night when he preached a sermon called "The Cross and the Lynching Tree." My notebook was practically vorticist in its responsive energy. And the book that came out of it, too, is pretty scintillating.

James Cone, of course, is famous for his books Black Theology an
Todd Hiestand
Apr 26, 2017 Todd Hiestand rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finished-reading
Man, what a book. Highly recommend. A stunning look into the history/theology of white christianity, white supremacy and the struggle of the black community in America.
Elizabeth Gaucher
Feb 21, 2017 Elizabeth Gaucher rated it it was amazing
I read this as part of a book study in a small, church group. It prompted highly emotional and intellectual responses. Cone reveals deep wells and wounds of agony in US history, at times it is difficult to keep reading. Keep reading anyway. Depending on who you are, this book will make a difference in your life. You may be lifted up and affirmed. You may have some hard self-reflection. Either way, it will change you for the better. Cone wants us to sit down and LISTEN. Don't debate, or make it a ...more
Philip Monroe
Feb 19, 2017 Philip Monroe rated it it was amazing
In 1986 I travelled a few weeks throughout the Deep South staying in the homes of different Christian families each night. I was shocked by the overt racism when asked by these host families what I thought "about the blacks." I am well aware that the North has its own more hidden yet evil forms of racism. However, this book is a MUST read. It explores the failure of Southern White Christians to support just responses to lynching and connects lynching to the experience of Christ on the cross.
Sep 12, 2016 David rated it really liked it
After reading God of the Oppressed I wanted to read more from Cone, so I got this book. In this book Cone explores the connections between the cross, where Jesus suffered and died, and the lynching tree where thousands of black men and women suffered and died. After a chapter on lynching in America, Cone spends a chapter critiquing Reinhold Niebuhr. Cone pulls no punches, asking how it was possible for Niebuhr to write so truthfully on Christian ethics but to fail so spectacularly to say anythin ...more
Dec 07, 2016 Claude rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
Along with Christian Smith's Divided by Faith, this book is pretty much required reading for Christians thinking about race, faith, and racial justice in America. You don't need to agree with Cone theologically to learn from his adept historical, literary, and theological reporting. In fact, a lot of this book is Cone reporting on how blacks viewed the lynching tree and the cross while ministers and theologians missed the connection and therefore missed the heart of God for the oppressed. (Cone' ...more
Jan 04, 2012 Chris rated it it was ok
I was not so intrigued by this book, and it certainly was not what I expected. I enjoyed the stories of the horrors that African-Americans faced before our times of civil rights, but the connection was never bridged by Cone. It was obvious that there were a great many correlations between the suffering of Christ and the terrors that the African-American race faced, but what was lacking was historical references and a string link between the lives of those who suffered and died at the hands of wh ...more
Ryan Donahue
Jan 02, 2014 Ryan Donahue rated it it was amazing
James Cone's 'The Cross and the Lynching Tree' is an incredibly challenging and powerful book, immeasurably important for any American of faith. The premise and conclusions must be read to be grasped, but can be hinted at in this quote from the end of the work: "God transformed lynched black bodies into the recrucified body of Christ. Every time a white mob lynched a black person, they lynched Jesus. The lynching tree is the cross in America. When American Christians realize that they can meet J ...more
Reid Belew
Jan 23, 2017 Reid Belew rated it it was amazing
Few books have impacted my understanding of the cultural moldings of traditional white evangelical theology. The glaring parallels of the cross and the lynching of black America are startling, and I'm ashamed to have not put the two together sooner. Cone highlights how traditionally white evangelical churches frame the cross–a source of atonement, a means of salvation–which is correct, but not the full picture. It is juxtaposed with the traditionally black church's view of the cross–affirmation ...more
Jul 20, 2014 Alice rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hope
This book brings a whole new meaning to the term "interdisciplinary." It's fascinating the way the author took this one thing (the symbolic relationship between the cross and the lynching tree) and examined it from so many different angles that it begins to take on new meaning of its own. Occasionally the writing gets a little clunky, especially when he quotes others, but the content is well thought-out. This is one of those books that I wish I could force people to read.
Jan 04, 2012 Emily rated it liked it
A difficult and damning read but also essential for all American Christians. I didn't always agree with Cone's theology but I appreciated learning more about his view. The final chapter was particularly strong and hopeful.
May 08, 2016 Alexis rated it it was amazing
Cone argues that the lynching tree should be a major interpretative symbol of American Christianity and indeed that the cross and the lynching tree need each other. Really interesting read in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, which began the year after this was published
Aug 02, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Thought provoking. Maddening. At times made me sick to my stomach. This is a must read in beginning to reconcile the paradoxes of faith and racial injustice.
Elisabeth Sepulveda
Mar 26, 2014 Elisabeth Sepulveda rated it really liked it
Shelves: faith
Looong review coming right up, but I wrote a reaction piece/review of this book for a theology class, so thought it would be easier to copy/paste those thoughts than re-type.:)

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these….you did for me”.
This famous line from Matthew 25:40 is frequently quoted in context of the poor and the oppressed, the weary and downtrodden. As we spoon out soup at homeless shelters and write out checks for orphans in Haiti, the satisfaction of reconciling inequities and
Judith (Judith'sChoiceReads)

Goodreads Summary

A landmark in the conversation about race and religion in America.
"They put him to death by hanging him on a tree." Acts 10:39

The cross and the lynching tree are the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African American community. In this powerful new work, theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and souls of black folk. Both the cross and the lynching tree represent the worst in human beings and at the same
Feb 04, 2016 Heather rated it liked it
Long Review is long...

I read this book as part of a Lenten Study at my church – it was a study that was carried out throughout our district (to the best of my knowledge, it didn’t go higher than our district, but it may have done). In any case, that study was the sole reason that I began reading this book. However, I am very glad to have had the opportunity to no simply read this book, but to speak to others about it as part of that study.

Certain points came up during our studies and when I was
Jun 19, 2017 Scott rated it really liked it
James H. Cone's book takes the reader to places that a lot of America has forgotten, and which passes mostly ignored in our education about our history. That is our shame, because an understanding and appreciation of the enduring impact of lynching upon our national psyche would help White America confront and deal with the horror of slavery in our country. Slavery not only had direct, physical and emotional impacts upon the enslaved blacks, but also wrought deep emotional, mental, and Cone (as ...more
Claire Clark
Jun 12, 2017 Claire Clark rated it it was amazing
Americhristianity (the false gospel of white christianity) has a painful, heartbreaking past, including but not limited to the genocide of the Native American population; the dismissal, subjugation, and belittlement of women; dehumanization of immigrant populations; and the brutalization of black Americans via slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, and criminalization of the black population.

The white American church has been living a false gospel, and we have failed to be a voice for dismantling racism,
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James Hal Cone is an advocate of Black liberation theology, a theology grounded in the experience of African Americans, and related to other Christian liberation theologies. In 1969, his book Black Theology and Black Power provided a new way to articulate the distinctiveness of theology in the black Church. James Cone’s work was influential and political from the time of his first publication, and ...more
More about James H. Cone...

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“In the “lynching era,” between 1880 to 1940, white Christians lynched nearly five thousand black men and women in a manner with obvious echoes of the Roman crucifixion of Jesus. Yet these “Christians” did not see the irony or contradiction in their actions.” 4 likes
“And yet the Christian gospel is more than a transcendent reality, more than “going to heaven when I die, to shout salvation as I fly.” It is also an immanent reality—a powerful liberating presence among the poor right now in their midst, “building them up where they are torn down and propping them up on every leaning side.” The gospel is found wherever poor people struggle for justice, fighting for their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” 2 likes
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