The Father Divine Project

The Father Divine Project

"...this Holy Marriage was for the purpose of uniting more effectively Heaven and Earth..."
-Father Divine (New Day, May 27, 1950, p. 37)


The wedding anniversary photographs from the archive of Father Divine's Peace Mission Movement, express a unique religious belief system through the vernacular of American wedding photography.
Within an iconography of conservative American values and the stylistic codes of wealth, independence and success, the photographs perform a radical act that would have been shocking to most of the public in the 1940s and the 1950s. Marriage between the races was socially taboo and in many states illegal. The photographs "visualize" the social ideal of racial harmony through the celibate 1946 marriage between Father Divine, a 65 year-old African American man, and Mother Divine,  a 21 year-old white Canadian woman. 
The religious belief that this photograph depicts, however, is not the interracial union of two human beings, but the marriage of a single human being to her "God."
The Father Divine Project is the effort of  Dr. Leonard Norman Primiano and Will Luers to make public, maintain, and interpret selections from the enormous archive of this still-active, but aging, American religion. The interpretative lenses focus on the expressive culture of this distinctive religious community as evidenced in the archive's media artifacts. Ethnographic video documentation, as well as scholarly essays, provide both an artful and scholarly context for the movement. This digital archive presents the viewer, both lay and expert, with the opportunity to understand a complex story of race, religion and intentional communal living as experienced by the followers of one of the most unusual, and yet distinctively American, expressions of faith in United States religious history.

*This is a work-in-progress.

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  1. Father Divine and Mother Divine (1950s)
  2. The Marriage of Father and Mother Divine