Harry Mitchell (Courtesy photo)

For centuries, historians and artists portrayed biblical figures as Caucasian, leading many to refer to Christianity as a “White man’s religion.”   But, that erroneous depiction is being vigorously countered through the Black Faith Project.

The campaign, headed by Harry Mitchell, is designed to inform and educate believers about the abundance of Africans and people of color highlighted throughout the Bible. Mitchell’s website, blackfaithproject.org, lists information, resources and even collectibles emphasizing this fact.

An L.A.-based author, he released “An Untraditional Fire: The Extraordinary Ministry of Rocellia Johnson” in 2021. The book covers the ministry and legacy of the famed Los Angeles preacher, teacher, church builder and evangelist.

Naming his new campaign as the Black Faith Project was not an attempt to exclude other ethnicities, said Mitchell, but rather an intentional effort “to focus on the issue of the Black representation in the Bible as a Black, or can I say, an unapologetically ‘Blackity-Black issue.’ It delves into the intersections of our sense of identity, humanity, mission, Christian faith, and spirituality.”

The connection between those areas materialized for Mitchell while he was researching background on a book to aid the latest generation of Black church leaders. Exploring the prevalence of racism in Christianity, he decided to review documents from the beginnings of the faith in an effort to trace how the trajectory of discrimination came about towards darker-hued believers. During his investigation, he discovered that people of color were intimately involvement in the development of the early church.

“I learned things like there [had] been an African Pope and the African church fathers like Tertullian, Athanasius, Origen and Augustine made major contributions to Christian theology and doctrine that we embrace today,” said Mitchell.

“It was during that process that I felt the Lord put on my heart the idea to look for the Black people in the Bible and tell others about them. So far, I’ve been able to identify about 20 or so people of African descent in the Bible, like Zipporah, Prophet Zephaniah, King Tirhaka, Jehudi and Apollos.

Products promoting the Black presence in the Bible are available on Mitchell’s website. (Courtesy photo)

“Tradition says Christianity was taken to Africa. In addition, God spoke to and used the Black people of that time. They are part of our history. We need to say their names and tell their stories,” insisted Mitchell.

Another revelation for the researcher was the fact that Black presence in the Bible was not actually hidden, but rather ethnicity was not always indicated. Calling the practice as “hiding in plain sight,” Mitchell noted that “these people have been in the Bible the whole time, but their birthplace and ancestry of these people is never explained.”

In addition, Bible commentaries and seminaries rarely denoted the link to Africa. Over time, European-influenced sculptures and paintings reflected White people in biblical scenes even though it was well known that Egypt was in Africa, called by many as “The Dark Continent.”

With the rise of Black pride in the late 20th century, White biblical images were replaced by beautiful Black faces and bodies. Still, many believers were unaware how historically accurate those drawings were, which is where the Black Faith Project comes in to dispel those fallacies.

“Black people in the Bible provides a Christianity that predates chattel slavery. It also provides a model of how God originated diversity, equity, and inclusion in His plans for redemption,” Mitchell explained.

“He’s not a God for White folks and Christianity is not a White man’s religion as some claim. The reconciliation for the church should begin by reconciling our minds and hearts around this truth that there are Black people in the Bible because they were part of God’s mission. God called and commissioned Black people throughout the Bible for His specific work,” he asserted.

Mitchell aims to share this message with as many people as possible through the Black Faith Project. The website not only offers a range of affirming and uplifting products, but also provides free presentations and other resources such as calendars and scholarly tomes.

Collectibles and merchandise are available at blackfaithproject.org. (Courtesy photo)

Future plans include the publication of children’s books to help parents have conversations about race, racism, and the Black presence in the Bible with young people. Also on the horizon are increased fundraising efforts to enable the campaign to grow and flourish.

“Our goal is to create awareness and engagement, not just at the Black church, but for the Black household. So, if I dared to have an expectation, it would be that we begin to create a new narrative for our Christian story and find new ways to get the message out,” said Mitchell.

“Therefore, our faith need not be connected with the pains of slavery, but with the historical facts that we were always in God’s plans and the Bible reveals that story. The hope is that by understanding this information that we begin to shape a new identity and outlook to fight the battles that still remain for us as a people with new outcomes. It’s time.”