Marie W. Dallam, Daddy Grace: A Celebrity Preacher and His House of Prayer. New York: New York University Press, 2007. Pp. 288. Cloth $35.00. Paper $20.00.
Daddy Grace: A Celebrity Preacher and His House of Prayer is the first work to emphasize the important contribution of Bishop Charles Emmanuel "Daddy" Grace to African American church history. Although earlier works included the United House of Prayer for All People in general studies of the black church, Marie Dallam takes a closer look into the leadership, laypeople's lives, and the foundations of the church; and she challenges the reader to understand the legitimacy of alternative religious practices within the African American community. Dallam's work aims to show the impact of the United House of Prayer not only on the African American religious experience, but for the American religious tradition as well.
Dallam begins by showing the complexities of Grace's racial and immigrant backgrounds. He did not consider himself black, but Portuguese, since he was of mixed racial heritage and immigrated to the United States from the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa. This is essential to understanding how Grace viewed himself in relation to his followers, and lays the foundation for his strategy in establishing Houses of Prayer throughout the South and in the Northeast. Dallam considers how parishioners related and reacted to Daddy Grace, exactly what they believed his relationship was to God, and the internal as well as external conflicts the church faced. Most of her research focuses on the years between 1922 and 1961, when African Americans were constantly migrating to the North and West, and when race relations were extremely volatile in the United States. This was the social context within which Grace and his United House of Prayer flourished.
Until now, most scholars understood Daddy Grace as a flamboyant, charismatic, and eccentric preacher. He was known for his long hair, long nails, and fancy clothes. On the surface Grace exemplified the stereotypical black preacher, "blessed" with good fortune, while his followers were poor but dedicated, and who often hoped they too would one day receive similar blessings. Dallam, however, notes that Grace was a much more complex figure. One example of this was Grace's approach to race. Rather than subscribing to American racial definitions, Grace refused to call himself a "Negro" or even African, and believed he was of a higher...