I met George Baker (a.k.a. God, according to the FBI) when I was about four years old.This was by courtesy of my father who was one of many unemployed black males caught up in and by the “movement”.He was a short,light complexioned black man who had the ability to consciously or unconsciously move his ears.To a four-year old,this ability made him appear sinister and more like an animal than a human or even worse a devil.He had swept up most of the unemployed husbands of the coterie of black women of West Indian origin in the Prospect Ave. area of the southeast Bronx.These women supported one another,kept their families above water and discussed the news of the day including Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia ,with the blessing of the Italian troops by Pius XII , and the abdication of Edward VII because of his infatuation with an American divorcee named Simpson.The suicide of a favorite son( M.D.) was equal in horror to the depredations of Father Divine(Baker) who took property and possessions as his due for membership in one of his many kingdoms.My mother saw to it that there were no more visits to his kingdom by me,and my father whose new name was “Andrew”, was on his own. After two and one half years “Andrew” had enough and felt strongly upon return to his family that Divine was a devil incarnate.Belief in Baker’s divinity was a condition for membership and with the goods and valuables of many (black and white,male and female),people were being fed with cheap food and housed on inexpensive land.(Sound familiar?)The most amazing thing about these women was their ability to step aside and allow back their wandering,finally disillusioned spouses with full authority as though they had never left.The kingdoms were(conditionally) open to all and there were some international converts.Divine loved business and may have been mentored by a white business man early on.His romance with communism was one-sided(theirs) probably because his attraction to the disenfranchised (spiritually and economically)seemed useful to the party.Nevertheless it attracted the attention of the FBI.WWII ended the great depression and thinned the ranks of followers.With the death or disability of the first Mother Divine(Peninah) the ladies of Prospect Ave lost interest in “God” and even his two consecutive marriages to young naive,Canadian blondes could not fully resurrect their interest.They had already countered his religious appeal with storefront churches reflecting the religion based educational structures of the islands from which they came.(Moravian,Baptist,Methodist,Episcopalian etc;churches sponsored by the nations that owned the islands).An interesting side note is that many of these storefronts had the eagle of the NRA emblazoned on their windows.(Roosevelt’s National Recovery Act, later to be declared unconstitutional.)
On his death in 1965,according to Wikipedia,a man named JIM JONES tried, unsuccessfully, to rally the remnants of his followers and possibly to claim some of the assets.(there is still a kingdom in Philadelphia with some geriatric followers holding on and some sort of shrine in Delaware.)
This was an international movement and it contained many of the features of Jonestown.The man who tried to resurrect Divine’s kingdom was our infamous JIM JONES.It seems reasonable that many of the features of Jonestown were directly derived from Divine’s Kingdoms.
Baker’s Kingdoms were (conditionally)open to all.Black and white male and female. He fed his disciples on cheap food and housed his disciples on cheap land.He worked his disciples hard, producing simple products at rates that were strictly below union costs and he found companies to contract with.He married several times and the abandonment of a black “Mother Divine” for a young naive white blonde from Canada was much discussed by the ladies of Prospect avenue.This paragon(Baker) loved business and money but attracted interest from communist fronts inasmuch as the disenfranchised spiritually were also usually those who couldn’t manage the economics of the time.WWII and the end of the great depression thinned the ranks of followers. After his second blonde Miss Canada liaison (I believe the first one died) although the first black Mother Divine was still alive and possibly disabled,the world lost interest in Divine.How he became identified as a civil rights activist is unclear but “BIO” does so while indicating a legally sponsored and apparently successful separation between “Father Divine” and George Baker.Apparently saints and sinners transact on the boundary between soul and soma.