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The Cross and the Lynching Tree

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  246 ratings  ·  62 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...more
Hardcover, 202 pages
Published 2011
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Scott
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...more
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...more
Ben De Bono
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
Pearl
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...more
Chris
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
Fr. River
THE CROSS AND THE LYNCHING TREE BY James H. Cone



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...more
Traci
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...more
Tiffany
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...more
Hye Sung
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.
Drick
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
Michael
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
Ryan Donahue
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
Dustin
James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2013). Pg. 202. Paperback $24.00.

I picked up this book at the recommendation of a friend. I’m glad it was recommended, because when I read this book, I discovered how the cross is still delivering a powerful message even in 21st century America. Between the Civil War and the 1940s, there were about 5,000 lynchings in America. This book explores how the African-American community was able to take this despicable act, an...more
Jon Stout
Apr 13, 2014 Jon Stout rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the pious and the penitent
Recommended to Jon by: Bishop John Shelby Spong
Shelves: religion
Before I started James Cone’s book, my attitude had the ambivalence of white guilt. Of course I knew that racial lynching was a horrible and shameful part of American history, but I had not had any part in lynching, not even tacitly or attitudinally. On the other hand it is hard to deny that the racial differentials between whites and blacks, in income, education and other measures of well-being, are all traceable to slavery, white supremacy and lynching. And I gained advantage from all of those...more
Elisabeth Sepulveda
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...more
M Christopher
"The Cross and the Lynching Tree" is a poignant and moving meditation on the history of lynching in America, its impact on both Black and Euro society in the U.S. and in particular on Christians of both races, and how various groups have responded or failed to respond to the obvious parallels between the cruelest tool of white supremacists and the crucifixion of trouble-makers (including Jesus of Nazareth) by the Roman Empire. Cone gives fresh insights into the egregious history of violence agai...more
Marissa Sotos
This was the first book I've read that made me care about theology. Cone unflinchingly examines lynching in America, its legacy and influence in African American Christianity and the legacy of silence in liberal white Christianity. He writes with both anger and compassion, a wide ranging grasp of history and politics along with personal stories and candor. He includes art and music as well as academic theological criticism, all without becoming detached or losing the reader. Cone points to huge...more
Spencer
Cone's book documents how the image of the lynching tree, in all its horror, became a kind of cross in black oppression in the United States. It is a true lament and prophetic cry to remember the injustice American Christianity has so quickly forgotten and to work toward a better tomorrow of racial reconciliation and liberation.

The book surveys this connected imagery, in art, poetry and song, critiquing the apathy of white theologians like Niebuhr and telling the powerful story of men like Marti...more
Emily
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.
Drew  McCaffery
The cross and the lynching provides great insight into the Lynching Era after the Civil War. Cone speaks to how the cross not only provides hope but gives individuals an example of someone who struggled the greatest struggle. Cone shares the connection blacks shared between the cross and the lynching tree and shared history and narrative to individuals like Dr. King and Reinhold Niebuhr. If you are interested about the lynching era or how it influenced faith and the black culture, I would recomm...more
John
Charles Lynch or William Lynch (both were called the origi- nal “Judge Lynch”)Lynching took place 1880-1960. More than 85 percent of the estimated 5,000 lynching's in the post-Civil War period occurred in the Southern states. The lynching of black America is taking place in the criminal justice system where nearly 1/3 of the black men 18-28 are in prisons, jails, on parole, or waiting for their day in court. Nearly 1/2 of the more than 2 million people in prisons are black. That is 1 million bla...more
Sarah Klaassen
Occasionally a book is published with a title provocative enough to carry its message well beyond the minds of those who take time to read its pages. James Cone’s latest, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Orbis, 2011), does just that.

Using black experiences of suffering to ground his theo-ethical work, Cone draws a direct parallel between ancient and more modern instruments of sanctioned violence. He writes, “Both the cross and the lynching tree were symbols of terror, instruments of torture and...more
James Klagge
A necessary book for whites to read. It presents the striking analogy between Jesus' crucifixion and blacks' lynching. In fact (in most translations--e.g., New Jerusalem Bible) Acts 10:39 reads that "they killed [Jesus] by hanging him on a tree." But none of the great theologians of the 20th Century ever so much as noted the comparison. And apparently the white Christian mobs viciously and publically lynched blacks or watched and cheered without ever noticing the irony that they were playing the...more
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
...more
Aeisele
"The lynching tree is a metaphor for white America's crucifixion of black people." That perhaps is the simplest statement as to what James Cone's book is all about. It's a book that both documents, and ever so lightly reflects on, what lynching means for America, and for Christianity.
I say ever so lightly because most of this book is really Cone laying out the connection between lynching and crucifixion in the voices of bluesman, religious leaders, artists, and activists (especially black women...more
Korri
‘Perhaps nothing about the history of mob violence in the United States is more surprising than how quickly an understanding of the full horror of lynching has receded from the nation’s collective historical memory.’ –W. Fitzhugh Brundage
(one of the book’s many poignant epigraphs)

In this text James H. Cone makes explicit the connection between the cross and the lynching tree, both linked to Jesus’ meaning for Christians in America. Jesus and many a person of color were made into public spectac...more
Chris
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
Dwight Davis
Although this book is significantly less scholarly than much of Cone's other work, it is by far my favorite book of his that I have read so far. Cone walks the reader through the black experience in American via the cross and the lynching tree, two symbols of the powerful suppressing the weak and downtrodden. This is an extraordinary work encompassing history, theology, and the arts. It is also by far Cone's most compassionate work.
Edie
Not a light read or topic! But highly recommended as part of the journey to find healing between "blacks and whites" as Cone states. This book opened my eyes and heart to understand the journey of African Americans in America. Slavery is a shameful part of our heritage, but lynching may even be more so. Amazing how anti-lynching laws could never become law, and that congress apologized in 2005 for never passing one! The reality of what Cone shares is brutal and harsh, but his heart for restorati...more
Rev. Tyree
Although alluded to in his other works, Dr. Cone finally pins what I consider to be his most important work in showing the relationship between the horrors of crucifixion and that of lynching. It may be difficult for some to swallow because his theological principle is that God is on the side of the oppressed, but they cannot deny that this contribution opens a new vein to consider the sacrifice of Jesus.
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  • Introducing Liberation Theology
  • At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America
  • Sexism and God Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology
  • Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars against the Black Panther Party & the American Indian Movement
  • She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse
  • Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America
  • Allah: A Christian Response
  • A Theology of Liberation
  • The Politics of Jesus
  • The Prophetic Imagination
  • The Hidden Wound
  • The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and How It Changed America
  • Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire
  • The Civil War as a Theological Crisis
  • When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America
  • Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives
  • At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance--A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power
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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...
Martin and Malcolm and America: A Dream or a Nightmare? A Black Theology of Liberation God of the Oppressed Black Theology and Black Power The Spirituals and the Blues

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