* Longtime pastor and spiritual mentor of Barack Obama
* Considers the U.S. to be a nation rife with racism and disrimination
* Blames American racism for provoking the 9/11 attacks
* “Islam and Christianity are a whole lot closer than you may realize. Islam comes out of Christianity.”
* Embraces liberation theology and socialism
* Strong supporter of Louis Farrakhan
* Likens Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to South Africa’s treatment of blacks during the apartheid era
The son of a Baptist minister, Jeremiah Alvesta Wright, Jr. was born in Philadelphia on September 22, 1941. He left college in 1961 and joined the Marines for two years before going on to enlist with the Navy, where he was trained as a cardiopulmonary technician and was assigned to the medical team charged with the care of President Lyndon Johnson until 1967. Wright then went on to earn a master’s degree in English from Howard University in 1969. Six years later he earned an additional master’s degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and in 1990 he received a Doctor of Ministry Degree from United Theological Seminary. On March 1, 1972, Wright became the pastor of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC), a position he would hold for the next 36 years. When Rev. Wright took over as TUCC pastor, the church’s membership totaled 87. By 2007 it had become the largest congregation in the United Church of Christ, with more than 8,000 members.
In June 1984 in Havana, Cuba, Wright attended a “Theological Seminar” in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The event was organized by the Ecumenical Council of Cuba, the Baptist Worker-Student Coordination of Cuba, the Caribbean Council of Churches, the Black Theology Project, and the Soviet-controlled Christian Peace Conference, an affiliate of the World Peace Council. Also in attendance were such luminaries as Fidel Castro, Jesse Jackson, and Benjamin Chavis (who would later become the Executive Director and CEO of the NAACP).
The writings, public statements, and sermons of Rev. Wright reflect his conviction that America is a nation infested with racism, prejudice, and injustices that make life extremely difficult for black people. As he declared in one of his sermons: “Racism is how this country was founded and how this country is still run!… We [Americans] believe in white supremacy and black inferiority and believe it more than we believe in God.”
Lamenting “the social order under which we [blacks] live, under which we suffer, under which we are killed,” Wright depicts African Americans as a politically powerless demographic whose constituents “don’t run anything in the Capital except elevators.” During his tenure as pastor of TUCC, the church’s website portrayed black people as victims burdened by the legacy of their “pilgrimage through the days of slavery, the days of segregation, and the long night of racism”—and as spiritual sojourners ever in pursuit of “the strength and courage to continuously address injustice as a people.”
Wright has attributed the comparatively high unemployment rate of African Americans to “the fact that they are black.” Vis-a-vis the criminal-justice system, he likewise explains that “the brothers are in prison” largely because of their skin color. “Consider the ‘three strikes law,’” he elaborates. “There is a higher jail sentencing for crack than for cocaine because more African Americans get crack than do cocaine.”
In Wright’s calculus, white America’s bigotry is to blame not only for whatever ills continue to plague the black community, but also for anti-U.S. sentiment abroad. “In the 21st century, says Wright, “white America got a wake-up call after 9/11/01. White America and the western world came to realize that people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West kept on its merry way of ignoring black concerns.”
Wright detests America’s capitalist economic structure, viewing it as a breeding ground for all manner of injustice. “Capitalism as made manifest in the ‘New World,’” he says, “depended upon slave labor (by African slaves), and it is only maintained by keeping the ‘Two-Thirds World’ under oppression.” Wright’s anti-capitalist perspective was reflected in TUCC’s “10-point vision,” whose ideals, as laid out on the TUCC website during Wright’s tenure as pastor, included the cultivation of “a congregation working towards ECONOMIC PARITY.” (Emphasis in original.) The TUCC mission statement plainly declared its goal of helping “the less fortunate to become agents of change for God who is not pleased with America’s economic mal-distribution!”
This view is entirely consistent with Wright’s devotion to the tenets of liberation theology, which essentially is Marxism dressed up as Christianity. Devised by Cold War-era theologians, it teaches that the New Testament gospels can be understood only as calls for social activism, class struggle, and revolution aimed at overturning the existing capitalist order and installing, in its stead, a socialist utopia where today’s poor will unseat their “oppressors” and become liberated from their material (and, consequently, their spiritual) deprivations.
An extension of this paradigm is black liberation theology, which seeks to foment a similar Marxist revolutionary fervor founded on racial, rather than class, solidarity. Wright’s mentor in this discipline was James Cone, author of the landmark text Black Power and Black Theology. Prior to the controversy sparked (in early 2008) by Wright’s racially charged statements and by Wright’s reference to Cone’s influence on his thinking, the website of Wright’s church identified Cone’s writings as required reading for parishioners who wished to more thoroughly understand the church’s theology and mission.
Fact #1: We’ve got more black men in prison than there are in college.
Fact #2: Racism is still alive and well. Racism is how this country was founded, and how this country is still run…. I don’t care how hard you run, Jesse, and no black woman can never be considered for anything outside of what she can give with her body.
Fact #3: America is the #1 killer in the world. We invaded Grenada for no other reason than to get Maurice Bishop. We invaded Panama because Noriega would not dance to our tune anymore. We are deeply involved in the importing of drugs, the exporting of guns, and the training of professional killers. We bombed Cambodia, Iraq and Nicaragua, killing women and children while trying to get public opinion turned against Castro and Qadaffi.
Fact #4: We put [Nelson] Mandela in prison and supported apartheid the whole 27 years he was there. We believe in white supremacy and black inferiority, and believe it more than we believe in God.
Fact #5: We supported Zionism shamelessly while ignoring the Palestinians, and called anyone that spoke out against it as being Anti-Semitic.
Fact #6: We conducted radiation experiments on our own people. We’re just finding out about that. We care nothing about human life if the ends justify the means.
Fact #7: We do not care if poor black and brown children cannot read and kill each other senselessly. We abandoned the city back in the 60’s back when the riots started. And it really doesn’t matter what those NNNNNNnnnnnnn…………… natives do to each other, we gave up on them and public education of poor people who live in the projects…. We, with VCRs, TVs, CDs, and portable phones have more homeless than any nation in the world.
Fact #8: We started the AIDS virus. And now that it is out of control, we still put more money in the military than in medicine, more money in hate than in humanitar[ian] concerns. Everybody does not have access to health care, I don’t care what the rich white boys in the city say, brothers…. Listen up, if you are poor, black and elderly, forget it.
Fact #9: We are only able to maintain our level of living by making sure that Third World people live in grinding poverty.
Fact #10: We are selfish, self-centered egotists who are arrogant and ignorant, and we prayer at church and do not try to make the kingdom that Jesus talks about a reality….
And in light of these 10 facts, God has got to be SICK OF THIS SHIT! (emphasis in original) (Click here for video of this sermon.)
In his Sunday sermon of September 16, 2001 — five days after 9/11 — Wright asserted that the United States had provoked the terrorist attacks because of its own transgressions at home and abroad. Said Wright:
“America’s chickens are coming home to roost. We took this country, by terror, away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Arawak, the Commanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism. We took Africans from their country to build our way of ease, and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism. We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel. We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers, and killed unarmed teenagers and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard-working fathers. We bombed Qaddafi’s home and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against a rock. We bombed Iraq. we killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard-working people, mothers and fathers, who left home to go that day, not knowing that they’d never get back home. We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. Kids playing in the playground, mothers picking up children after school, civilian, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards? America’s chickens are coming home to roost. Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism.”
In that same sermon, Wright said that the post-9/11 period should be viewed as a time for a “social transformation” targeting America’s inherent greed, racism, malevolence, and injustice:
“[T]his is a time for social transformation, and this is going to be the hardest step we have to take. But now is the time for social transformation. We have got to change the way we have been doing things. We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a society, social transformation. We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a country, social transformation. We have got to change the way we have been doing things as an arrogant, racist, military superpower, social transformation. We just can’t keep messing over people, and think ain’t nobody do nothing about it. They have shown us that they can, and that they will. And let me suggest to you that rather than figure out who we’re going to declare war on, maybe we need to declare war on racism. Maybe we need to declare war on injustice. Maybe we need to declare war on greed. Those same lawmakers you saw gathered at the Capitol praying are the same lawmakers who just passed a $1.3 trillion dollar gift for the rich. Maybe we need to rethink the way we do politics and declare war on greed. Maybe we need to declare war on AIDS. In five minutes, the Congress found $40 billion dollars to rebuild New York, and the families of those who died in sudden death. Do you think we could find the money to make medicine available for people who are dying a slow death? Maybe, maybe, maybe we need to declare war on the health care system that leaves the nation’s poor with no health coverage. Maybe we need to declare war on the mishandled educational system, and provide quality education for everybody, every citizen, based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay. This is a time for social transformation. We can’t go back to doing business as usual, and treating the rest of the world like we’ve been treating them. This is a time for self-examination, and this is a time for social transformation.”
In an April 2008 interview with PBS‘s Bill Moyers, Wright compared what the al-Qaeda Muslims had done to unarmed innocents, to the sins committed by white slavers in an earlier era: “I had to show them [his congregants] … how the people who were carried into slavery were very angry, very bitter, moved in their anger from wanting revenge against the armies that had carried them away to slavery, to [wanting revenge against innocent civilians],” he told Moyers.
In an April 13, 2003 sermon, Wright passionately denounced the United States as a nation whose history was steeped in racism, imperialism, and brutality:
“We believe in this country, and we teach our children that God sent us to this promised land. He sent us to take this country from the Arawak, the Susquehannock, the Apache, the Commanche, the Cherokee, the Seminole, the Choctaw, the Hopi, and the Arapaho. We confuse government and God. We believe God sanctioned the rape and robbery of an entire continent. We believe God ordained African slavery. We believe God makes Europeans superior to Africans, and superior to everybody else, too, because we confuse God and government. We said in our founding documents as a government, we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. Created, that means God, and endowed with a certain inalienable right, that means given by God. And then we define Africans in those same documents are 3/5ths of a person. We believe God approved of African slavery. We believe God approved segregation. We believe God approved Apartheid, and the doctrine which says all men are created more equal than other men, and we talking about white men. We confuse God and government.
“We believe God approves of 6% of the people on the face of this Earth, controlling all of the resources on the face of this Earth, while the other 94% live in poverty and squalor, while we give trillions of dollars of tax breaks to the white rich. We believe God was a founding member of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Look at the lily-whiteness of the G7 nations the next time you see a picture, and then tell me if you see anything wrong with that picture when you hold it up against a picture of the color of the world’s population. We confuse God and government.
“We believe God is on the side of the wealthy. We believe it’s all right to send our military to fight, and if necessary, to die in Iraq and anywhere else we decide is a part of the axis of evil, while George W. cuts the military benefits so that when those boys and girls come back home, they can be as bad off as some of the Iraqis that we just liberated. We confuse God and government. …
“We believe we have a right to Iraqi oil. We believe we have a right to Venezuelan oil. We believe we’ve got a right to all the oil on the face of the Earth, and we’ve got the military to take it if necessary. Or as George W. piously says, as God so leads him. We’re confusing God and government. […] We’ve got a paranoid group of patriots in power that now, in the interests of homeland stupidity, I mean homeland security, excuse me, they are taking away the Constitutional right of free speech, because it’s harmful to the interests of national security. And those interests equate God with government. Our money says In God We Trust, and our military says we will kill you under the orders of our commander-in-chief if you dare to believe otherwise.”
In that same sermon, Wright infamously shouted the epithet “God damn America” — a call for the deity to punish the United States for its many transgressions against nonwhite people within its borders:
“The United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating its citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest-paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education, and locked them into positions of hopelessness and helplessness. The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three strikes law, and then wants us to sing God bless America? No, no, no, not God bless America, God damn America, that’s in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating her citizens as less than human. God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God, and she is supreme (applause). The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent.”
Also in the April 13 sermon, Wright said: “We cannot see how what we are doing is the same that al Qaeda is doing under a different color flag. Calling on the name of a different God to sanction and approve our murder and our mayhem.”
During a June 2010 seminar that he taught to a group of African Americans in Chicago, Wright made such statements as:
Also at that seminar, Wright said that Martin Luther King was misguided for having advocated nonviolence among blacks, who were “born in the oven of America.” Wright referred to Italians as “Mamma Luigi” and “pizzeria.” And he cited the writings of Bill Jones — author of the book Is God a White Racist? — as proof that white people despise blacks: “Bill said, ‘They just killed four of their own at Kent State. They’ll step on you like a cockroach and keep on movin’, cause you not a brother to them.’”
During an April 2012 speech in Charleston, West Virginia, Wright made the following remarks:
In that same speech, Wright made reference to a gospel passage wherein the tax collector Zacchaeus encounters Jesus and subsequently decides to give half of his possessions away, and to give back four times what he owes to anyone whom he has cheated. Then Wright said: “You will not hear this passage of John 19 preached on Wall Street. You won’t hear this Luke 19 Scripture exegeted in the comfortable pews of the rich folk, the greedy folk or the Tea Party praisers…. That is called restorative justice and theology – restore the stuff that the greedy stole from the needy.”
In a July 8, 2012 sermon at Washington, D.C.’s Florida Avenue Baptist Church, Wright accused some of America‘s most prestigious colleges and universities of using white racism to infect the brains of black people, and to turn African Americans into “sheep dogs” and “biscuits”:
“Take that baby, him or her, away from the African mother, away from the African community, away from the African experience … and put them Africans at the breasts of Yale, Harvard, University of Chicago, those trinity schools, UCLA or U.C. Berkley. Turn them into biscuits then they’ll get that alien DNA all up inside their brain, and they will turn on their own people in defense of the ones who are keeping their own people under oppression…. There’s white racist DNA running through the synapses of his or her brain tissue. They will kill their own kind, defend the enemies of their kind or anyone who is perceived to be the enemy of the milky white way of life.”
Many of Wright’s condemnations of the United States are echoed in his denunciations of Israel and Zionism, which he has blamed for imposing “injustice and … racism” on the Palestinians. He has referred to Israel as a “dirty word”; stated that Zionism contains “an element of white racism”; likened Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to South Africa’s treatment of blacks during the apartheid era; and spoken in support of divestment campaigns targeting companies that conduct business in, or with, Israel. Most notably, he supports the Hamas-inspired Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement. “Boycott, divestment, and sanction is how we fought non-violently to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa,” said Wright in October 2015. “Apartheid is going on in Palestine as we sit here. There’s an apartheid wall being built, twice the size of the Berlin Wall in height, keeping Palestinians off of illegally occupied territories, where the Europeans have claimed that land as their own.”
The July 22, 2007 edition of Wright’s TUCC bulletin reprinted an article that Hamas political leader Mousa Abu Marzook had recently published in the Los Angeles Times. The piece was originally titled “Hamas’ Stand,” but Wright changed it to “A Fresh View of the Palestinian Struggle.”
On the “Pastor’s Page” of the June 10, 2007 edition of the TUCC newsletter, was an open letter from Palestinian activist Ali Baghdadi calling Israel an “apartheid” regime that was developing an “ethnic bomb” designed to kill “blacks and Arabs.” Wrote Baghdadi: “I must tell you that Israel was the closest ally to the white supremacists of South Africa. In fact, South Africa allowed Israel to test its nuclear weapons in the ocean off South Africa. The Israelis were given a blank check: they could test whenever they desired and did not even have to ask permission. Both worked on an ethnic bomb that kills Blacks and Arabs.”
At a May 18, 2009 rally organized by the Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine, Wright and former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers jointly addressed a crowd of more than 400 people at the First United Church of Oak Park (a Chicago suburb) just prior to participating in an annual walk designed to call attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Asked by an interviewer in June 2009 whether he had spoken to President Barack Obama since the latter had taken his oath of office five months earlier, Wright replied: “Them Jews aren’t going to let him [Obama] talk to me. I told my baby daughter that he’ll talk to me in five years when he’s a lame duck, or in eight years when he’s out of office…. They will not let him to talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is…. I said from the beginning: He’s a politician; I’m a pastor. He’s got to do what politicians do.” Wright then proceeded to condemn Israel, saying: “Ethnic cleansing is going on in Gaza. Ethnic cleansing [by] the Zionist is a sin and a crime against humanity, and they don’t want Barack talking like that because that’s [supposedly] anti-Israel.”
In response to Wright’s reference to apartheid, senior Hamas leader (and member of the Hamas parliament) Salah Bardawil stated that Wright was correct — i.e., that “Israel is definitely an apartheid state.”
“When Minister Farrakhan speaks, Black America listens. Everybody may not agree with him, but they listen … His depth on analysis when it comes to the racial ills of this nation is astounding and eye opening. He brings a perspective that is helpful and honest. Minister Farrakhan will be remembered as one of the 20th and 21st century giants of the African American religious experience. His integrity and honesty have secured him a place in history as one of the nation’s most powerful critics. His love for Africa and African American people has made him an unforgettable force, a catalyst for change and a religious leader who is sincere about his faith and his purpose.”
Wright’s praise for Farrakhan was echoed in the November/December issue of TUCC’s bimonthly magazine, the Trumpet, which featured an interview with the NOI “icon” who, according to the publication, “truly epitomized greatness.” “Because of the Minister’s influence in the African American community,” the Trumpet announced that it was honoring him with an “Empowerment Award” as a “fitting tribute for a storied life well lived.”
Wright’s ties to Farrakhan go back many years. For example:
While Wright was the pastor of TUCC, the church described itself on its website in distinctly racial terms, emphasizing its “Unashamedly Black” congregation of “African people” who are “true to our native land, the mother continent, the cradle of civilization,” and who participate in TUCC’s “Black worship service and ministries which address the Black Community.”
Some have suggested that such assertions, coupled with Wright’s own racially loaded statements and his close affiliation with Farrakhan, indicate that Wright is guilty of racism. But Wright dismisses this charge, stating: “I get tickled every time I hear a ‘Negro’ call me a racist. They don’t even understand how to define the word. Racism means controlling the means.”
Under Wright’s leadership, TUCC promoted — as it continues to promote — a “Black Value System” that encourages African Americans to patronize black-only businesses, support black leaders, and avoid becoming “entrapped” by the pursuit of a “black middle-classness” whose ideals presumably would erode their sense of African identity and render them “captive” to white culture.
Each December, Wright and his congregants offered Kwanzaa programs for the TUCC community. Kwanzaa is the holiday founded by Maulana Karenga, a self-identified “African socialist” whose “Seven Principles of Blackness,” which are observed during Kwanzaa, include not only the Marxist precepts of parity and proletariat unity, but are identical to the principles of the 1970s domestic terrorist group, the Symbionese Liberation Army.
TUCC’s most well-known congregant was Barack Obama, who had attended the church for two decades when he lived in Chicago. Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, selected Rev. Wright to perform their wedding ceremony in 1992 and, later, to baptize their two daughters. Barack Obama sought Wright’s counsel before formally declaring his candidacy for U.S. President in 2007.
On December 4, 2007, Wright was named as a member of the Barack Obama campaign’s newly created African American Religious Leadership Committee. Other notable members of the Committee included Rev. Joseph E. Lowery and Rev. Otis Moss III.
Rev. Wright retired as pastor of TUCC on February 10, 2008. He was replaced by Otis Moss III.
In March 2008, Wright stepped down from Senator Obama’s African American Religious Leadership Committee after videotapes of his controversial sermons had repeatedly ignited fierce public debate and criticism.
On April 28, 2008, Wright delivered a nationally televised speech to the National Press Club. During the course of his talk, he said: “Based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything.”
On December 7, 2008, Wright returned to the pulpit of TUCC for the first time since his retirement ten months earlier. In his sermon, he belittled people who thought that politics should be kept out of the pulpit as “baby milk believers.” He complained that “[a]ny preacher who dares to point out the simple ugly facts found in every field imaginable is demonized as volatile, controversial, incendiary, inflammatory, anti-American and radical.” And he said, “Today is December 7th, the day that this [U.S.] government killed over 80,000 Japanese civilians at Hiroshima in 1941, two days before killing an additional 64,000 Japanese civilians at Nagasaki by dropping nuclear bombs on innocent people.” (Actually, Wright had his facts mixed up. December 7, 1941 was the day when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.)
On April 18, 2009, the Chicago branch of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression — a front group for both the Communist Party USA the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism — presented Wright with its highest honor, its Human Rights Award. The keynote speaker at the event was Angela Davis.
At a September 17, 2009 anniversary celebration for the socialist magazine Monthly Review, Wright praised the periodical for its “no-nonsense Marxism.” He added: “You dispel all the negative images we have been programmed to conjure up with just the mention of that word ‘socialism’ or ‘Marxism.’” Wright also called America the “land of the greed and home of the slave.”
Wright sees no reason to believe that Islam may be incompatible in any way with Western traditions. “Islam and Christianity are a whole lot closer than you may realize,” he has written. “Islam comes out of Christianity.”
In September 2016, Wright suffered a stroke that paralyzed the left side of his body and rendered him permanently reliant on a wheelchair. He continued to preach on certain occasions thereafter, however. For instance, on January 14, 2018 at the Andrew Rankin Chapel on the Howard University campus, he delivered his customary sermon for “Jeremiah Wright Sunday,” as the second Sunday in January had come to be known. “The devil thought he had me, but God kept me in my right mind,” Wright said to his listeners.
Jeremiah Wright’s “Trumpet”
By Stanley Kurtz
May 19, 2008
Providing Context For Reverend Wright: The New Audio Of His Sermons
By Hugh Hewitt
April 25, 2008
Left in Church
By Stanley Kurtz
May 20, 2008
By Stanley Kurtz
October 14, 2008
By Ann Coulter
May 1, 2008
Obama’s Race-Rant Rev. Rages On
By Maureen Callahan
June 27, 2010
VIDEOS & AUDIOS
Wright: No Nonsense [promoting Socialism & Marxism]
September 17, 2009
July 5, 2006
Obama’s Preacher’s Hate Speech
March 13, 2008