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Delaware Historical Society hosts August Quarterly interfaith discussion

Courtesty of the Delaware Historical Society

The week-long August Quarterly starts Sunday in Wilmington. The Delaware Historical Society kicks it off Saturday with a panel discussion on interfaith traditions and the Black Church.

August Quarterly has been celebrated for over 200 years in Wilmington. It’s the longest running African American festival in the country.

This year Delaware Historical Society hosts the festival’s first interfaith panel: “The Black Church and Interfaith Traditions.”  

The festival has roots in African Union Methodism, but the Historical Society’s Dr. Angela Winand says it has long attracted participants from various Christian denominations.

“The Quarterly is a celebration of bringing people together around a common identity as African Americans, around a shared spirituality,” she said.


Winand says early on, the festival was a space for building social and political power for African Americans in the region.

“Not just the spirit of fellowship but also representing the importance of literacy and organization,” she said.

Rutgers University professor of American and Women’s and Gender Studies Dr. Sylvia Chan-Malik joins the panel to discuss how Islam has also provided a space of liberation for African Americans.

“Islam exists in this country as a part of Black Power, part of Civil Rights struggles, part of this long march to freedom,” she said. “It’s integral to that narrative.”

Afro-Jewish philosopher, political thinker and University of Connecticut professor Lewis Gordon will also join the panel.

“There is a great deal of misrepresentation of Jewish peoples. Not only non-Jews but also many Jewish people fail to understand that the majority of Jewish people are non-white,” he said. “And so it’s very important to address the invisibility or even worse erasure of … Black Jewish people”

Gordon adds that many don’t realize the influence of Black Jewish themes in American society and the Caribbean.  

The Delaware Historical Society says the discussion will explore how African Americans with diverse spiritual backgrounds have united around a message of liberation.

Other panelists include Christopher Driscoll, assistant professor at Lehigh University, and Monica R. Miller, associate professor at Lehigh University.

The panel will be moderated by Rev. Dr. Lawrence Livingston of the Mother African Union Church—the church at the center of August Quarterly.

Rev. Peter Spencer founded this church and many others, as well as the first  independent African American denomination in the United States in the early 19th Century—and started Wilmington’s August Quarterly tradition.

The panel discussion starts at 2pm Saturday at the Delaware History Museum on Market St.

This year’s August Quarterly festival concludes next Sunday with a morning service at the Chase Center and the traditional “Big Quarterly” celebration at Tubman-Garrett park.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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