In the midst of this turbulent period, a relatively unknown theologian from a rural town in Arkansas emerged to confront the abstract and irrelevant definitions of white mainstream theology and to speak to the social conditions of black Americans.
James Cone has been called "the father" of black theology, "the leading exponent of black theology," and the "premier black theologian" (Burrow, 1993, p. 1). Grenz and Olson (1992, p. 206) acknowledge, "Cone was able to emerge as an important voice for the new Black theology in part because he shared the plight of Blacks through his upbringing in the South. This qualified him to understand their feelings and speak on their behalf. At the same time, his voice was significant because he had obtained the academic credentials necessary to gain a hearing in the largely White-dominated theological circle."
Cone wrote the first systematic treatment of black theology. His books, articles, and lectures launched black liberation theology into the national and international theological arena. As Hopkins (2002, p. 16) argues, "I believe he was the first person in the history of the United States to position liberation of the poor as the central and foundational preaching and teaching of Jesus And Cone was one of two people in the world to first write books on liberation theology." To better contextualise this assessment, it would be pertinent to point out that Hopkins (2002, p. 14) defines black liberation theology as "the name given to a movement created by a group of African American pastors in the late 1960s who felt that the gospel of Jesus Christ had a positive message for black people." Arguably, there were three historic events that provided the context for the formation of black theology as a movement: (1) the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, associated with Martin Luther King Jr., (2) the publication of Joseph Washington's book, Black Religion: The Negro and Christianity in the United States (1964), and (3) the rise of the black power movement, strongly influenced by Malcolm X's philosophy of black nationalism (Burrow, 1993).
In the 1960s, the notoriety of the civil rights movement emerged under the leadership and direction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He confronted racism and discrimination using a social-oriented theology and a nonviolent method of protest. His pastoral concern and academic training gave a theological and biblical voice to the debilitating implications of racial oppression. Second, Joseph Washington's (1964) book Black Religion was one of the major writings to argue that black religion is not identical to white Protestantism or any other expression of Euro-American Christianity. "Rejecting the thesis of earlier studies that viewed Black religion as one aspect of the broader category of North American Protestantism, Washington asserted that it was actually a distinctive phenomenon in North American religious life" (Grenz and Olson, 1992, p. 204). Finally, with the influence of Malcolm X, phrases like "black nationalism," "black pride," and "black power" emerged to raise black consciousness and reclaim black identity in American society.
The three historical benchmarks - the civil rights movement, Black Religion, and the black power movement -provided the conte