From left to right: Former Oakland City Manager Henry Gardner, longtime member of First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, author Martha C. Taylor, food ministry leader Bill Coburn, and Post publisher Paul Cobb after Dr. Taylor preached, then presented her book at the church earlier this year.
Preaching, teaching, and writing, are a way of life for Dr. Marha C. Taylor, who has had a number of successful careers. Currently, the official church historian for Allen Temple Baptist Church and the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., her new book, “From Labor to Reward: Black Church Beginnings in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond,” is a must read for all.
“This is a passion of mine,” said Taylor. “Most folks think it is my doctoral thesis, but no. I have simply been interested in the history of Black churches in the Bay Area for a long, long time.”
The book is divided into four parts, with specific churches described in each: Gold Rush Migration Era, 1849-1909; First Great Migration, 1910-1939; Great Migration, 1940-1950; and Civil Rights Era and Beyond, 1950s-1972. Since its release, Taylor has kept a busy schedule presenting the book in many different settings.
“Taylor’s passionate, probing perspective unveils the rich history of Black Church beginnings in the San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond cities. Through meticulous research, she brings to light the struggles, strengths, and triumphs of everyday people who built strong religious communities in the face of adversity, racism, and political oppression. Scholars, clergy, and lay people will be intrigued and stimulated by this one-of-a-kind history book.,” wrote Congresswoman Barbara Lee, in a review of the book.
In his foreword, the Rev. Dr. Dwight D. Hopkins, Professor of Theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School, calls the book “a herculean project” that “fills in huge void in American religious history, black religious history, and traditions of the Black church.”
He writes, “Black people in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area have been pointers toward what the bright future of African-American life can be….Innovative while affirming traditions from their southern roots and global while planted in their local landscape, Bay Area Blacks offer America an untapped textural road map for how they and the United States can get along together.”
And while many question about why she stopped in 1972, Taylor said “there will be a sequel.”