- Embraces the Marxist tenets of Black Liberation Theology
- A leader in the campaign for slavery reparations
Born on January 13, 1931 in Savannah, Georgia, Herbert Daughtry lived in the South until the age of 11, at which time he moved with his family to Brooklyn and then, shortly thereafter, to Jersey City. After a decade of involvement in crime, gambling, and drug abuse, Daughtry in 1953 was convicted and incarcerated for armed robbery and assault. In prison, he had a religious conversion to Pentecostalism which eventually led him to become the pastor of Brooklyn’s House of the Lord Church in 1958, and the National Presiding Minister of the House of the Lord Ministries in 1959.
Before long, Rev. Daughtry’s social activism earned him the nickname “People’s Pastor.” In the 1960s, he campaigned for school integration in the South and joined Operation Breadbasket, a Southern Christian Leadership Conference project that organized boycotts against businesses that discriminated against blacks. In 1977 he became particularly well known in New York as a part of the Coalition of Concerned Leaders and Citizens to Save Our Jobs, an alliance that used economic boycotts to persuade Brooklyn merchants to provide employment and services for local blacks.
In May 1983 Daughtry spoke at the first Black Nation Day Conference, which was co-sponsored by the black nationalist Republic of New Afrika and Wayne State University’s Center for Black Studies. Other speakers included Louis Farrakhan, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown), Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), and Robert Williams. According to historian Harvey Klehr, the event was aimed at “raising the consciousness of the black nation, helping to spark a black independence movement, and promoting the unification of black groups.”
Daughtry believes that American society is inherently and irredeemably racist to its core. In the aftermath of an August 1989 incident where a black Brooklyn teenager named Yusef Hawkins had been shot dead by a gang of young whites, Daughtry asserted that the youngster’s death “needs to be put in the context of all the years that we [blacks] have been subjected to the denials, the oppression, the brutality, the killings.” He condemned not only Hawkins’ actual killers, but all of Western civilization — with its “contempt for, and destruction of, African humanity.”1 In a long letter to The New York Times, Daughtry lamented that because “humanity wrapped in ebony hue is [in the eyes of society] of less value than white humanity,” black people “can be denied basic human and legal rights,” “brutalized,” and “killed” with impunity. Asserting also that recent years had brought an “escalation of bias-related violence” against blacks, he added: “A change must come. No people can be expected to continue to absorb this kind of pain and not explode.”2
That same year, Daughtry, complaining that police racism had reached epidemic proportions, declared that law-enforcement officers posed a greater danger to blacks than did the members of organized hate groups.3 On another occasion, Daughtry asserted that police brutality had caused many blacks to reach “the conclusion that the youth of African ancestry are an endangered species” — too often “killed by people we pay to protect us.”4
When several white students from St. John’s University were acquitted in a 1991 trial on charges that they had sexually assaulted a black woman, Daughtry called the verdict not only “a blatant manifestation of sexism and racism,” but actually “one of the greatest miscarriages of justice the world has ever seen.”5
A fervent proponent of Black Liberation Theology, Daughtry has served in various capacities with the World Council of Churches. He also has been one of the principal leaders of the reparations-for-slavery movement, and his Brooklyn church is adorned with a pro-reparations banner bearing the slogan, “They Owe Us.” Daughtry was a featured speaker at the “Millions for Reparations” rally in Washington on August 17, 2002, where he appeared alongside such notables as Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Rep. John Conyers Jr., and Malik Zulu Shabazz and Hashim Nzinga of the New Black Panther Party. “I don’t care how many welfare checks you get,” Daughtry proclaimed, “they will not pay you for the labor of your ancestors.” On another occasion, he said: “Slavery didn’t stop because in 1865 someone signed a piece of paper.” And at a March 1, 2010 New York march to raise money for earthquake victims in Haiti, which was once a French colony, Daughtry demanded that France pay reparations to the Haitian people.
Depicting the United States as a nation that continued to oppress and mistreat blacks, Daughtry stated in August 2002: “I say to people being inconvenienced by terrorism since 9/11, welcome to Black America. […] We have lived with terror so long that we have normalized it […] we have been subjected to terror as no other people.
Over the years, Daughtry has been an organizer of numerous left-wing antiwar campaigns. For instance, on November 21, 2002 — in conjunction with Ramsey Clark, International ANSWER, Cynthia McKinney, and Larry Holmes — he organized and hosted a major peace demonstration in Brooklyn. On January 18, 2003, he was a featured speaker at the ANSWER-organized National March on Washington, whose purpose was to condemn the Bush administration for contemplating the possibility of attacking Iraq militarily. Daughtry also participated in a worldwide anti-war rally on March 20, 2004, and he worked in solidarity with the Troops Out Now Coalition.
Daughtry also has helped organize a number of initiatives with activist Al Sharpton, including some 2006-08 demonstrations protesting the controversial police shooting of a young black man named Sean Bell in New York City.
An avid supporter of the Palestinian cause and the Free Gaza Movement, Daughtry in 2009 worked alongside George Galloway to ship medical supplies to Gaza. Explaining his rationale for siding with the Palestinians rather than with the Israelis in the Mideast conflict, Daughtry said in 2010: “I am for the oppressed, not the oppressors.”
In August 2014, Daughtry spoke at a large rally that was led by Al Sharpton to protest the recent death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old African American who had died in the aftermath of a physical confrontation between himself and a group of New York City police officers. “This is a Birmingham, Alabama moment!” Daughtry thundered, referencing the famous civil-rights demonstrations that had drawn national attention to segregation in that city during the 1960s.
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1 Dennis Hevesi, “”Protests Worth Risk, Supporters Say,” The New York Times (September 2, 1989), p, 28. Herbert Daughtry, “Who Really Killed Yusef Hawkins?” The New York Times (August 29, 1989), p. A19.
2 Herbert Daughtry, “Who Really Killed Yusef Hawkins?” The New York Times (August 29, 1989), p. A19.
4 E.R. Shipp, “Refuting Hate a Matter of Life and Death,” Daily News (New York) (October 5, 1994), p. 35.
5 E.R. Shipp, “Sex Assault Cases: St. John’s Verdict Touches Off Debate,” The New York Times (July 25, 1991), p. B6.