In the opening pages of New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity during the Great Migration, Judith Weisenfeld tells a memorable story about Alec Brown Bey, a South Carolina native who appeared before the Philadelphia draft board to register during the Second World War.1 Brown Bey's story was that of millions of other Black southerners who headed north during the Great Migration, and one of nearly thirteen million men who answered the call to register.

Weisenfeld paints a picture of a man who, before his arrival in Philadelphia, would likely have been as content being categorized as “Negro” by the draft registrar (George Richman) as he would have been satisfied with being registered as Alec Brown. “But sometime between settling in Philadelphia [probably in the late 1930s] and appearing before the draft board in 1942, Brown had become a member of the Moorish Science Temple of America.”...

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