The Black Hebrew Israelites are members of a religious movement that dates back to the slavery and Reconstruction. They consist of different sects such as: African Hebrew Israelites, Black Hebrews, Black Jews, Black Israelites, or Hebrew Israelites. The members believe that African Americans are the literal descendants of the Israelites of the Bible. These have been cut off from their true heritage.
From the 17th to 20th century, the African-Americans identified themselves with Judaism. Some of the prominent figures in the movement formation were Frank Cherry and William Saunders Crowdy. William Saunders Crowdy traveled across the United States with his message in the late 1800s. He sett up congregations in states like Kansas, Illinois, New York, and Virginia before his death in New Jersey in 1908. In the 1980s other sects appeared, such as those lead by Yahweh Ben Yahweh (1935 – 2007), or Hulon Mitchell, Jr.
The beliefs and practices of Black Hebrew groups differ greatly among its sects. In general, they don’t believe in the Trinity nor the deity of Jesus. They also believe that there is no heaven or hell. And they claim that when the Messiah comes back, all Israel (black people) will be gathered back to Israel of today. They also teach that in addition to the King James version, there are other books that are inspired, such as the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha (especially the Book of Enoch and the Book of Jasher).
And they affirm that Jesus was black. They see white people as conspirators who try to persecute the black people and conceal their true identity as Israelites. Some of them don’t believe in the writings of Paul.
Thus, their teachings do not line up with Judaism. Instead, it is made from the manipulation of traditions and beliefs that have been gathered from widely different sources such as: Holiness/Pentecostal Christianity, the British Anglo-Israelite movement, Freemasonry, Mind Power, Theosophy, Judaism, and the occult.
Modern Black Hebrew Israelites
The three largest sects found in this movement today are: the International Israelite Board of Rabbis, the Church Of God And Saints Of Christ – Temple Beth El, and the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem. Some of the groups are so extreme that they were categorized as hate groups because of their vehement, racist, and anti-Semitic language. The Black Hebrew group is around 200,000 members among the dozens of offshoot branches.