My People: Properly Subversive Theology

February 09, 2015

by William Edgar

Duke Ellington once remarked that “the foundation of the United States rests on the sweat of my people.” He had just composed the lengthy symphonic suite My People (1963) which addressed race more directly than usual in his music. A close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., Ellington included in the suite a piece dedicated to the civil rights reformer entitled “King Fit the Battle of Alabam.” Yet Duke insisted that social commentary was not the main theme of My People. Rather it was love, woven as a golden thread throughout the suite.

This twentieth-century jazz masterpiece shows one of the fundamental principles that has driven African-Americans to respond to their circumstances with both resiliency and generosity toward their oppressors. “Lord, dear Lord above, God Almighty God of love… Please look down and see my people through,” says the refrain from Come Sunday, the second song in the suite. Centered on love, this subversive theology is a divine gift, not self-generated.

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William Edgar

Dr. Edgar (DThéol, Université de Genève) is professor of apologetics at WTS.

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