The Color of Christ

The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America

By Edward J. Blum, Paul Harvey

352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 19 halftones, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1884-5
    Published: August 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-3737-5
    Published: September 2012
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8275-2
    Published: September 2012

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Awards & distinctions

A 2013 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

How is it that in America the image of Jesus Christ has been used both to justify the atrocities of white supremacy and to inspire the righteousness of civil rights crusades? In The Color of Christ, Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey weave a tapestry of American dreams and visions--from witch hunts to web pages, Harlem to Hollywood, slave cabins to South Park, Mormon revelations to Indian reservations--to show how Americans remade the Son of God visually time and again into a sacred symbol of their greatest aspirations, deepest terrors, and mightiest strivings for racial power and justice.

The Color of Christ uncovers how, in a country founded by Puritans who destroyed depictions of Jesus, Americans came to believe in the whiteness of Christ. Some envisioned a white Christ who would sanctify the exploitation of Native Americans and African Americans and bless imperial expansion. Many others gazed at a messiah, not necessarily white, who was willing and able to confront white supremacy. The color of Christ still symbolizes America's most combustible divisions, revealing the power and malleability of race and religion from colonial times to the presidency of Barack Obama.

About the Authors

Edward J. Blum is author of Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism.
For more information about Edward J. Blum, visit the Author Page.

Paul Harvey is author of Freedom's Coming: Religious Cultures and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era.
For more information about Paul Harvey, visit the Author Page.


"[A] compelling study. . . . This work will captivate readers of American religious and racial history."—Library Journal

“The authors’ breadth of research is impressive, and their incorporation of material culture is a model for future scholarship.”—Journal of American History

"Thoroughly fascinating."—Booklist Starred Review and 2013 Top 10 Black History Nonfiction

"A powerful and groundbreaking book. . . . [Blum and Harvey] masterfully probe how a sacred icon can be a tool at once of racial oppression and liberation. A must-read for those interested in American religious history, this book will forever change the way you look at images of Jesus."—Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"A fascinating story that we cannot afford to ignore."—Books & Culture

"This model of academic inquiry and analysis is clearly written, deeply researched, socially engaged, ambitious in the intellectual scope of its questions about race and religion, and methodical in its answers."—A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012

Multimedia & Links

Watch: In an interview with Joanna Brooks, Ed Blum talks about Jesus, American history, and the 2012 election. Running time: 16:58.

Listen: Ed Blum talks to Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air (11/19/2012).

Listen: Ed Blum on God Complex Radio podcast (03/13/2013).

Listen: Ed Blum talks to The Mormon Book Review (02/28/2013).

Listen: Paul Harvey talks to The Journal of Southern Religion about using The Color of Christ in the classroom (12/13/2012).

Listen: Ed Blum talks to The Journal of Southern Religion about writing The Color of Christ (11/12/2012).

Read: An interview with the authors at Race, Place, and Jesus in American History: An Interview with Paul Harvey and Edward J. Blum at The Historical Society blog (8/20/2012).

Read: Blum & Harvey's article "How (George) Romney Championed Civil Rights and Challenged His Church" at The Atlantic (8/13/2012).

Read: Blum talks to The Daily Beast for their article "Was Jesus Lily-White? Author Edward Blum Discusses Race and the Mormon Religion" (7/27/2012).

Read: In a guest blog post, Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey discuss Jesus jokes in the twenty-first century. Read "Jesus Jokes and Racial Pain"