Francis James Grimké in the 21st Century: A Bibliography of Recent Literature

Francis James Grimké (November 4, 1850–October 11, 1937) was a Presbyterian pastor who served most of his life in Washington, D.C. After his death, Carter G. Woodson selected a number of papers, addresses, and letters in his monumental 4 volume The Works of Francis J. Grimké. Woodson considered Grimké one of the most significant figures of his time: “probably no other man living made a larger contribution to this outcome [the improvement of the lives of Black people in America] than did this uncompromising and unyielding agent of righteousness and truth” (“Introduction,” The Works of FJG, 1:xix).

In our day, Grimké is not recognized as widely as he should be. His Works are out of print; many of his sermons and addresses are in archives unaccessible to the public; the only book-length treatment of him was a single dissertation published nearly fifty years ago (Henry J. Ferry, “Francis James Grimke: Portrait of a Black Puritan,” Yale, 1974).

When trying to “retrieve” a historical figure’s and their legacy, one runs in to the issue of selectivity. In Grimké’s case, Dr. Jemar Tisby notes this: “Some white evangelical and Reformed folks may want to make Francis Grimké into a Black mascot because he was Presbyterian and/or they liked his theology. But they will selectively quote him to fit their narrative of a sound/safe Black preacher” (Tweet, May 28, 2020, referencing Malcolm Foley chapter below).

In recent years, Francis Grimké’s life and writings have found their way into a wide variety of books and articles, a testament to the irrepressibility of his influence. The following is a brief survey of some of the books, chapters, articles, anthologies, and blog posts that make reference to Francis James Grimké in a significant way (i.e., more than a passing reference). As you read through the list, consider the breadth of subjects that intersect with the life and work of Francis Grimké. In the words of Woodson, again, “In his works all important issues before the American people and how they were decided may be studied.”

This post could also serve as a helpful “where to start?” reading Grimké. The four volumes of Grimké’s Works stretch to over 2,400 pages, and it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. This post at least shows what historians, scholars, editors, and other authors have found significant over the past 20–25 years.

I’ve arranged items within the categories in chronological order. If you know of something that I haven’t included here, drop me a note in the comments, and I’ll add it!

Books/Chapters

James Cone, “Calling the Oppressors to Account,” in Quinton Hosford Dixie and Cornel West, eds., The Courage to Hope : From Black Suffering to Human Redemption : Essays in Honor of James Melvin Washington (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999).

The Courage to Hope is a collection of essays in honor of the great Black Baptist historian James Melvin Washington, with contributions by Cornel West, Vincent Harding, Albert Raboteau, Sandy Dwayne Martin, Judith Weisenfeld and more. Cone starts off his article with a quote from Francis Grimké’s address “The Roosevelt-Washington Episode, or Race Prejudice,” (1901). The Grimké quote includes the phrase (“He [God] will call the oppressors to account”) from which Cone derives the title of his essay.

(read online at the Internet Archive)

Linda Przybyszewski, The Republic According to John Marshall Harlan (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1999).

Linda Przybyszewski is an associate professor of history at the University of Cincinnati. This book on the famous U.S. Supreme Court justice includes over a dozen references to Grimké, who was a pastor in Washington D.C. while Harlan was on the court. Harlan and Grimké were allies in fighting (unsuccessfully) segregation in the Presbyterian church.

(read online at the Internet Archive)

Cleophus J. LaRue, The Heart of Black Preaching (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000).

Dr. Cleophus Larue is the Professor of Homiletics at Princeton Theological Seminary. This book examines Black preaching as a form, as well as analysis of several 19th century preachers and contemporary preachers. FJG gets a 10 page section devoted to him (44–53) in the larger chapter “The Power Motif in Nineteenth-Century American Sermons.” The book also includes two FJG sermons in the “Appendix: Sermons”:

  • “A Resemblance and a Contrast Between the American Negro and the Children of Israel: in Egypt, or, The duty of the Negro to Contend Earnestly for His Rights Guaranteed Under the Constitution,” 1902 (147–160)
  • “The Roosevelt-Washington Episode, or Race Prejudice,” 1901 (161–72)

(read online at the Internet Archive)

Mark Perry, Lift up Thy Voice: The Grimké Family’s Journey from Slaveholders to Civil Rights Leaders (New York: Viking, 2001)

This is a significant book on the Grimké family. “Part III: The Grimké Brothers” (233–342) covers the lives of Archibald and Francis, and is the fullest treatment available since Ferry. The bibliography also include a list of twenty “Selected Major Sermons of Francis James Grimké,” a great place to start for someone looking to dive into Grimké’s works:

  • “God and the Race Problem.” Washington, D C., 1903.
  • “Highest Values.” Washington, D C., 1903.
  • “The Inheritance Which All Parents May and Ought to Leave to Their Children.” Washington, DC., 1903.
  • “The Atlanta Riot.” Washington, D.C., 1906.
  • “Equality of Rights for All Citizens. Black and White Alike.” Washington, D C., 1909.
  • “Character: The True Standard by Which to Estimate Individuals and Races and by Which They Should Estimate Themselves and Others.” Washington. D C., 1911.
  • “Fifty Years of Freedom.” Washington, D.C., 1913.
  • “Effective Christianity in the Present World Crisis.” Washington. D.C., 1918.
  • “Scotsboro.” Washington. D.C., 1918.
  • “Spiritual Life “Washington, DC., 1918.
  • “A Look Backward Over a Pastorate of More Than Forty Two Years Over the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church.” Washington. D.C., 1923.
  • “What Is the Trouble with the Christianity of Today?” Washington, D.C., 1923.
  • “The Paramount Importance of Right Living.” Washington, D.C., 1926.
  • “My Farewell Quadrennial Message to the Race.” Washington. D.C., 1933.
  • “Christianity Is Not Dependent Upon the Endorsement of Men Great in Worldly Wisdom.” Washington, D.C., 1934.
  • “Christ’s Program for the Saving of the World.” Washington, DC., 1934.
  • “Jim Crow Christianity and the Negro.” Washington. D C.. 1934
  • “What Is to Be the Real Future of the Black Man in this Country?” Washington,
  • DC., 1934.
  • “Conditions Necessary to Permanent World Peace.” Washington, D.C., 1933
  • “Quadrennial Message to the Race.” Washington, D C . 1937.

(read online at the Internet Archive)

Thabiti Anyabwile, The Faithful Preacher : Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007).

Thabiti Anyabwile, like Grimké, is a Black pastor in Washington, D.C. This book gives a short biographical sketch of three Black pastors, including FJG, and then reprints several of their sermons. Anyabwile includes four of Grimké’s sermons, two of which are unavailable (publicly) anywhere else:

  • The Afro-American pulpit in relation to race elevation (1892) – in Works, V1
  • Christianity and race prejudice (1910) – in Works, V1
  • The religious aspect of reconstruction (1919) – previously unavailable
  • Christ’s program for the saving of the world (1936) – previously unavailable

For readers looking for Grimké sermons, this is one of the only collections available in print.

(purchase at Amazon)

Thabiti M. Anyabwile, The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007).

The same year (2007) Anyabwile also published this book. His analysis includes a short section on Grimké on pages 118–22 in the chapter on “African America Anthropology” and interacts with nine different Grimké sermons.

(purchase at Amazon)

Mark Sidwell, Free Indeed: Heroes of Black Christian History (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 2001).

Mark Sidwell is a professor of history at Bob Jones University. Sidwell has written a couple of articles on Grimké (see below for the most recent). For the second edition of his book, Sidwell added a chapter on Francis Grimké — be sure to get the edition published in 2001, not the first edition from 1995.

(purchase at Amazon)

Harriet A. (Harriet Ann) Jacobs, The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers, ed. Jean Fagan Yellin, 2 vols. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008)

Harriet Jacobs was a longtime friend of Francis and Charlotte Forten Grimké. The second volume of this set includes a couple of letters to Francis, as well as an account of a Christmas message he gave, and the text of his eulogy at Jacob’s death.

(get this one from the library if you can; it’s $175 on Amazon)

Christopher Z. Hobson, The Mount of Vision: African American Prophetic Tradition, 1800-1950 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Christopher Hobson is an English professor at SUNY. His book is “in-depth study of prophetic traditions in African American religion.” Francis Grimké is one of “four prophetic thinkers that serve as reference points throughout the book” (xiv). With over 80 references in the book, this is one of the more extensive studies of Grimké in recent years.

(purchase at Amazon)

Rhondda Robinson Thomas and Susanna Ashton, eds., The South Carolina Roots of African American Thought: A Reader (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2014).

This book includes a chapter dedicated to Grimké, in particular, how he outlined “a radical, biblically grounded blueprint for African American activism in “The Negro and His Citizenship” (1905). In particular, it highlights Grimké’s position in light of the Booker T. Washington vs. W. E. B. Du Bois debate, and notes that Grimké landed squarely on the side of Du Bois, as part of, in Grimké’s words, “the radical wing of the race.” It also includes a reprint of “The Negro and His Citizenship,” with a number of helpful explanatory footnotes (originally found in The Negro and the Elective Franchise: A Series of Papers and a Sermon (Washington, D.C: American Negro Academy, 1905). 

(purchase at Amazon)

Elizabeth Dowling Taylor, The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era, 1st Edition. (New York: Amistad, 2017).

This is the story of “the inspiring rise and calculated fall of the black elite, from Emancipation through Reconstruction to the Jim Crow Era.” It focuses on Daniel Murray, who was an upper class Black man in Washington, D.C., but given the location, it also contains several references to Francis Grimké. In fact, Murray was married by Grimké in Fifteenth Street Presbyterian.

(purchase on Amazon)

Francis J. Grimké, Meditations on Preaching (Madison, MS: Log College Press, 2018).

This 120 page booklet was collected from The Works of Francis J. Grimke, Volume 3: Stray Thoughts and Meditations. Dr. Irwyn Ince wrote the forward (5 pages) which introduces Grimké. The meditations themselves are short, from half a page up to four pages long.

(purchase at Log College Press)

Malcolm Foley, “The Only Way to Stop a Mob: Francis Grimké’s Biblical Case for Lynching Resistance” in Timothy Larsen, ed., Every Leaf, Line, and Letter: Evangelicals and the Bible from the 1730s to the Present (InterVarsity Press, 2021): 196–218

This edited volume includes contributions from David Bebbington, Catherine Brekus, Thomas S. Kidd, Mark A. Noll, Brian Stanley, and others. Foley’s chapter “”Foley “introduces the great African American pastor-theologian Francis Grimké, who never used ‘evangelical’ to describe himself yet em­braced all the traits of the [Bebbington] Quadrilateral.” Foley “considers how evangelicals of different races, who agreed on evangelical essentials, reached such starkly different conclusions on social and political issues, including the widespread lynching of African Americans.” (Thomas Kidd, “Introduction,” 4).

(purchase at Amazon)

Kathryn Freeman et al., “Pandemics, the Rev. Francis J. Grimké, and Life Lessons,” in Racialized Health, COVID-19, and Religious Responses (Routledge, 2022).

A century before COVID-19 was the “Spanish Flu” epidemic of 1918–1920, and Francis Grimké had some poignant remarks about that epidemic. This chapter mainly interacts with Grimké’s Some Reflections, Growing Out of the Recent Epidemic of Influenza that Afflicted Our City: A Discourse Delivered in the Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church, Washington, D.C., Sunday, November 3, 1918 (read online at HaithiTrust)

The whole chapter can be read online here.

Mark A. Noll, America’s Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794-1911 (New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press, 2022).

Noll’s most recent book is massive, clocking in at over 800+ pages. Noll includes a 6 page section on Grimké in his concluding chapter, “Still Under a Bushel.” Noll notes that “the career of Francis Grimke exemplified the highest level of Black scripturalism” and that he “was one of the great, if still unheralded, figures of his age” (658, 659). Noll talks about Grimké’s wholistic faith: “Yet unlike many white religious leaders, Grimké did not follow the bifurca­tion common in his day. The same preacher who could expound so eloquently on the spiritual imperatives of Christian faith also spoke constantly about the imperative for believers to live out their faith, especially the imperative to op­pose race prejudice with all their might” (660–61).

(purchase on Amazon)

Articles

Mark Sidwell, “Francis Grimké and the Value and Limits of Carter Woodson’s Model of the Progressive Black Pastor,” Fides et Historia 32.1 (2000): 99–117.

A fascinating article using Grimké as a test case for Carter G. Woodson’s categories of “progressive” and “conservative” Black pastors in his book The History of the Negro Church. Excellent survey of Grimké and astute analysis of Woodson. Displays some of the most extensive interaction with Grimké’s works that I’ve seen anywhere (nearly 60 references from all 4 volumes of the collected Works). I highly recommend this article if you can find it.

David Torbett, “Race and Conservative Protestantism: Princeton Theological Seminary and the Unity of the Human Species,” Fides et Historia 37.2–1 (2005): 119–36.

Included a brief three page section highlighting Grimké’s biblical stance against racism. Torbett considers Grimké to be one example of the “legacy” of Princeton on issues of race, in contrast to other figures, like J. Gresham Machen, who “bitterly opposed Warfield’s support of desegregation” (135).

Chris Hobson, “Francis Grimké and African American Prophecy,” The Utopian 5 (2006).

A fascinating article in an anarchist publication describing Grimké as an illustration of “A long line of African American religious leadership in social struggle testifies that Christian belief is not necessarily, nor primarily, a disincentive to struggle here on earth.” This article is of a piece with Hobson’s book on the Black prophetic tradition (see above).

(read it online here)

Mark A. Noll, “Theology, Presbyterian History, and the Civil War,” The Journal of Presbyterian History (1997-) 89.1 (2011): 4–15.

An insightful article that contains two pages analyzing Grimké’s thought relating to race and Jim Crow.

(available on JStor)

Robert F Schwarzwalder, “‘For a Real, Not a Sham Christianity’: Francis J. Grimké on Racial Strife and World Peace in the Early Twentieth Century,” Fides et Historia 53.2 (2021): 17–33.

This article has a particular focus on Grimké’s views on American foreign policy, especially surrounding World War I. In the essay, Scharzwalder sets out to “sketch Grimké’s biography and establish his Evangelical credentials before taking a closer look at key statements that he made before, during, and after the Great War” (19).

Dissertation

Steven B. Crymes, “An Investigation and Sketche [Sic] into the Life, and Theological Thought of Francis J. Grimke and Its Social and Political Implications” (Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, 2008)

I have been unable to obtain a copy of this dissertation. If anyone is in Louisville and can take a trip to their library, let me know! It would be much appreciated.

Anthologies

Michael Warner, ed., American Sermons: The Pilgrims to Martin Luther King, Jr (New York: Penguin Books, 1999).

This anthology is over 900 pages long and includes 58 sermons. Francis Grimké’s is the first sermon in the section “20th Century”: “A Resemblance and a Contrast Between the American Negro and the Children of Israel: in Egypt, or, The duty of the Negro to Contend Earnestly for His Rights Guaranteed Under the Constitution” (1902). The book also includes a brief biographical sketch. Ironically, immediately following the Grimké sermon is one by J. Gresham Machen, who infamously protested Black students studying at Princeton Seminary, where Grimké was an alumnus.

(read online at the Internet Archive)

James Daley, ed., Great Speeches by African Americans (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2006)

This collection includes a number of speeches, including Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, MLK, Malcolm X, Thurgood Marshall, Barack Obama, and others. The speech selected by Francis Grimké is “Equality of Rights for All Citizens: Black and White, Alike” (1909).

(read online at the Internet Archive)

Joslyn Pine, ed., Book of African-American Quotations (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2011)

A 200 page book of quotes from over 250 different Black figures, including Grimké. Here’s a few of his:

  • “The white people in this country seem to be greatly concerned as to whether humanity or the savage is to rule in other lands but utterly indifferent as to which rules in this.”
  • “Slavery is gone, but the spirit of it still remains.”
  • “It is only what is written upon the soul of man that will survive the wreck of time.”

(read online at the Internet Archive)

John Ernest, ed., Douglass in His Own Time: A Biographical Chronicle of His Life, Drawn from Recollections, Interviews, and Memoirs by Family, Friends, and Associates (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014).

This is a fascinating book, which “offers an introduction to Douglass the man by those who knew him.” Included among the many accounts is Francis Grimké’s, “The Second Marriage of Frederick Douglass.” Grimké had officiated Douglass second marriage to a white woman, Helen Pitts, and his address notes “how dramatically controversial this interracial union was at the time” (137).

(purchase on Amazon)

M. Clark, The Voice of a People: Speeches from Black America (Mint Editions, 2021).

Another collection of speeches, nearly 300 pages worth. This one includes Grimké’s, “The Negro will Never Acquiesce” delivered November 20, 1898.

(purchase from Amazon)

Lectures

Henry J. Ferry, “Francis James Grimke: Prophet on a Tightrope” (2008)

In 2008, Henry Ferry gave a lecture at the Reformed Institute of Metropolitan Washington, which is a general overview of Grimké’s life

(pdf of the lecture manuscript available here)

Sean Michael Lucas, “African American Fathers and Brothers in Presbyterian History” (2017)

Covers Black Presbyterians

(video of the lecture available on Youtube)

Blog Posts

Adam Borneman, “Francis Grimke: An African American Witness in Reformed Political Theology,” Political Theology Network, 22 November 2013: https://politicaltheology.com/francis-grimke-an-african-american-witness-in-reformed-political-theology/.

Louis Weeks, “The Earnest Protest of Francis Grimké,” Presbyterian Historical Society, 13 July 2016: https://www.history.pcusa.org/blog/2016/07/earnest-protest-francis-grimk%C3%A9.

Sean Michael Lucas, “Meet Francis Grimké (1850–1937), Faithful Minister of Grace,” The Gospel Coalition, 2018: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/francis-grimke/.

Nicholas R. Barnfield, “Francis J. Grimké,” To Those of His House, 3 August 2020: https://tothoseofhishouse.com/reflections-on-faithful-servants/papers/.

P. C. Kemeny, “Missed Opportunity: Francis Grimké on Racism and Revival,” The Gospel Coalition, 2022: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/grimke-racism-revival/.

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