Jeremiah Alvesta Wright Jr.
September 22, 1941
|Other names||Jerry Wright|
|Spouse(s)||Ramah Reed Wright|
|Church||United Church of Christ|
|Trinity United Church of Christ|
|Thesis||Black Sacred Music: Problems and Possibilities (1990)|
|Doctoral advisor||Samuel DeWitt Proctor|
|Influences||James H. Cone|
|School or tradition||Black liberation theology|
Jeremiah Alvesta Wright Jr. (born September 22, 1941) is a pastor emeritus of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, a congregation he led for 36 years, during which its membership grew to over 8,000 parishioners. Following retirement, his beliefs and preaching were scrutinized when segments of his sermons about terrorist attacks on the United States and government dishonesty were publicized in connection with the presidential campaign of Barack Obama.
Wright was born on September 22, 1941. He was born and raised in the racially mixed area of Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were Jeremiah Wright Sr. (1909–2001), a Baptist minister who pastored Grace Baptist Church in Germantown from 1938 to 1980, and Mary Elizabeth Henderson Wright, a school teacher who was the first black person to teach an academic subject at Roosevelt Junior High. She went on to be the first black person to teach at Germantown High and Girls High, where she became the school's first black vice principal.
Wright graduated from Central High School of Philadelphia in 1959, among the best schools in the area at the time. At the time, the school was around 90 percent white. The 211th class yearbook described Wright as a respected member of the class. "Always ready with a kind word, Jerry is one of the most congenial members of the 211," the yearbook said. "His record in Central is a model for lower class [younger] members to emulate."
Education and military service
From 1959 to 1961, Wright attended Virginia Union University, in Richmond and is a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Zeta chapter. In 1961 Wright left college and joined the United States Marine Corps and became part of the 2nd Marine Division attaining the rank of private first class. In 1963, after two years of service, Wright joined the United States Navy and entered the Corpsman School at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. Wright was then trained as a cardiopulmonary technician at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Wright was assigned as part of the medical team charged with care of President Lyndon B. Johnson (see photo of Wright caring for Johnson after his 1966 surgery). Before leaving the position in 1967, the White House Physician, Vice Admiral Burkley, personally wrote Wright a letter of thanks on behalf of the United States President.
In 1967 Wright enrolled at Howard University in Washington, DC, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1968 and a master's degree in English in 1969. He also earned a master's degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School. Wright holds a Doctor of Ministry degree (1990) from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, where he studied under Samuel DeWitt Proctor, a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr.
His wife is Ramah Reed Wright, and he has four daughters, Janet Marie Moore, Jeri Lynne Wright, Nikol D. Reed, and Jamila Nandi Wright, and one son, Nathan D. Reed.
Career as minister
Wright became pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago on March 1, 1971; it had some 250 members on its rolls, but only about 90 or so were actually attending worship by that time. By March 2008 Trinity United Church of Christ had become the largest church in the mostly white United Church of Christ denomination. The President and General Minister of the United Church of Christ, John H. Thomas, has stated: "It is critical that all of us express our gratitude and support to this remarkable congregation, to Jeremiah A. Wright for his leadership over 36 years." Thomas, who is a member of the Pilgrim Congregational United Church of Christ in Cleveland, has also preached and worshipped at Trinity United Church of Christ (most recently on March 2, 2008).
Trinity and Wright were profiled by correspondent Roger Wilkins in Sherry Jones's documentary Keeping the Faith broadcast as the June 16, 1987, episode of the PBS series Frontline with Judy Woodruff. In 1995, Wright was asked to deliver a prayer during an afternoon session of speeches at the Million Man March in Washington, DC.
Wright, who began the "Ministers in Training" program at Trinity United Church of Christ, has been a national leader in promoting theological education and the preparation of seminarians for the African-American church. The church's mission statement is based upon systematized black theology that started with the works of James Hal Cone.
Wright has been a professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, Garrett–Evangelical Theological Seminary, and other educational institutions. Wright has served on the Board of Trustees of Virginia Union University, Chicago Theological Seminary and City Colleges of Chicago. He has also served on the Board Directors of Evangelical Health Systems, the Black Theology Project, the Center for New Horizons and the Malcolm X School of Nursing, and on boards and committees of other religious and civic organizations.
Wright attended a lecture by Frederick G. Sampson in Richmond, Virginia, in the late 1980s, on the G. F. Watts painting Hope, which inspired him to give a sermon in 1990 based on the subject of the painting – "with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God.... To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope... that's the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from Watt's painting." Having attended Wright's sermon, Barack Obama later adapted Wright's phrase "audacity to hope" to "audacity of hope" which became the title for his 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address, and the title of his second book.
Wright, who was Barack Obama's former pastor, gained national attention in March 2008 when ABC News, after reviewing dozens of Wright's sermons, excerpted parts which were subject to intense media scrutiny. Obama denounced the statements in question, but after critics continued to press the issue of his relationship with Wright he gave a speech titled "A More Perfect Union", in which he denounced Wright's remarks, but did not disown him as a person. The controversy began to fade, but was renewed in late April when Wright made a series of media appearances, including an interview on Bill Moyers Journal, a speech at the NAACP and a speech at the National Press Club. After the last of these, Obama spoke more forcefully against his former pastor, saying that he was "outraged" and "saddened" by his behavior, and in May he resigned his membership in the church.
On June 9, 2009, in an interview with the Daily Press of Newport News, Wright indicated that he hadn't had contact with Obama up to that point because "Them Jews aren't going to let him 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." Wright also suggested that Obama did not send a delegation to the Durban Review Conference in Geneva on racism because of Zionist pressure saying: "[T]he Jewish vote, the A-I-P-A-C vote, that's controlling him, that would not let him send representation to the Durban Review Conference, that's talking this craziness on this trip, cause they’re Zionists, they would not let him talk to someone who calls a spade what it is." Writing for The Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates characterized Wright's remarks as "crude conspiratorial antisemitism." On June 11, 2009, Wright amended his remarks during an interview with Mark Thompson on his radio program, Make it Plain. "Let me say like Hillary, I misspoke. Let me just say: Zionists... I’m not talking about all Jews, all people of the Jewish faith, I’m talking about Zionists."
Wright wrote on his Facebook page apologizing for his remarks on June 12, 2009. He wrote, "I mis-spoke and I sincerely meant no harm or ill-will to the American Jewish community or the Obama administration... I have great respect for the Jewish faith and the foundational (and central) part of our Judeo-Christian tradition." "In other words", another Atlantic writer, Jeffrey Goldberg, alleged, "[H]e regrets speaking plainly instead of deploying a euphemism." The Anti Defamation League released a statement condemning Wright's remarks as "inflammatory and false. The notions of Jewish control of the White House in Reverend Wright's statement express classic anti-Semitism in its most vile form."
In June 2011, in a speech at Empowerment Temple in Baltimore City, Wright called the State of Israel "illegal" and "genocidal" and insisted, "To equate Judaism with the state of Israel is to equate Christianity with [rapper] Flavor Flav."
Wright retired as pastor from Trinity United Church of Christ in early 2008. Over the course of his tenure, he brought the Church's membership from 87 in 1972 to over 8,000 parishioners. Trinity United purchased a lot in Tinley Park, a predominantly white Chicago suburb, and built Wright a 10,340-square-foot (961 m2) home valued at $1.6 million.
In September 2016, Wright suffered a stroke which paralyzed the left side of his body and left him confined to a wheelchair; despite the effect on his voice, Wright continues to give sermons on certain occasions.
Wright has received a Rockefeller Fellowship and seven honorary doctorate degrees, including from Colgate University, Lincoln University (in Pennsylvania), Valparaiso University, United Theological Seminary, Chicago Theological Seminary, and Starr King School for the Ministry. Wright was named one of Ebony magazine's top 15 preachers. He was also awarded the first Carver Medal by Simpson College in January 2008, to recognize Wright as "an outstanding individual whose life exemplifies the commitment and vision of the service of George Washington Carver". On May 1, 2008, Northwestern University withdrew its invitation for him to receive an honorary doctorate in light of the controversy over his recent remarks.
- Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., "Music as Cultural Expression in Black Church Theology and Worship", Journal of Black Sacred Music 3, 1 (1; Spring 1989).
- Wright, Jeremiah A. Jr. and Jini Kilgore Ross, What Makes You So Strong?: Sermons of Joy and Strength from Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., Judson Press, November 1993, ISBN 978-0-8170-1198-7
- Jawanza Kunjufu and Jeremiah Wright Jr., Adam! Where Are You?: Why Most Black Men Don't Go to Church, African American Images, June 1997, ISBN 978-0-913543-43-6 (also African American Images, 1994, ISBN B000T6LXPQ)
- Wright, Jeremiah A. Jr. and Colleen Birchett, Africans Who Shaped Our Faith (Student Guide), Urban Ministries, Inc., May 1995, ISBN 978-0-940955-29-5
- Wright, Jeremiah A. Jr. and Jini Kilgore Ross, Good News!: Sermons of Hope for Today's Families, Judson Press, December 1995, ISBN 978-0-8170-1236-6
- William J. Key, Robert Johnson Smith, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. and Robert Johnson-Smith, From One Brother to Another: Voices of African American Men, Judson Press, October 1996, ISBN 978-0-8170-1250-2
- Frank Madison Reid III, Jeremiah Wright Jr. and Colleen Birchett, When Black Men Stand Up for God: Reflections on the Million Man March, African American Images, December 1997, ISBN 978-0-913543-48-1
- Wright, Jeremiah A. Jr., What Can Happen When We Pray: A Daily Devotional, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, June 2002, ISBN 978-0-8066-3406-7
- Wright, Jeremiah A. Jr., From One Brother To Another, Volume 2: Voices of African American Men , Judson Press, January 2003, ISBN 978-0-8170-1362-2
- Wright, Jeremiah A Jr. (2004), "Doing black theology in the black church", pp. 13–23, 213–214. In Linda E. Thomas (Ed.), Living Stones in the Household of God: The Legacy and Future of Black Theology, Minneapolis: Fortress. ISBN 0-8006-3627-9
- Wright, Jeremiah. "Here I am, send me". In Awakened to a calling: reflections on the vocation of ministry, Ann M. Svennungsen and Melissa Wiginton (Eds.), Nashville: Abingdon Press, c2005. ISBN 0-687-05390-0
- Wright, Jeremiah. "In the Lord's house, on the Lord's day". In Awakened to a calling: reflections on the vocation of ministry, Ann M. Svennungsen and Melissa Wiginton (Eds.), Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2005. ISBN 0-687-05390-0
- Iva E. Carruthers (Editor), Frederick D. Haynes III (Editor), Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. (Editor), Blow the Trumpet in Zion!: Global Vision and Action for the 21st Century Black Church, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, January 2005, ISBN 978-0-8006-3712-5
- Ernest R. Flores and Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., Tempted to Leave the Cross: Renewing the Call to Discipleship, Judson Press, November 2007, ISBN 978-0-8170-1524-4
Wright has written several books and is featured on Wynton Marsalis's album The Majesty of the Blues, where he recites a spoken word piece written by Stanley Crouch, and on the Odyssey Channel series Great Preachers.
- Hewitt, Hugh (April 25, 2008). "Providing Context for Reverend Wright: The New Audio of His Sermons". HughHewitt.com. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
- Wright, Jeremiah A., Jr. (1990). Black Sacred Music: Problems and Possibilities (DMin thesis). Dayton, Ohio: United Theological Seminary. OCLC 33027349.
- Alberts, Hana R. (April 28, 2008). "Rev. Wright Reclaims the Spotlight". Forbes. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
- "About the Rev. Jeremiah Wright". Seattle Times. March 15, 2008. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
- Jennifer O'Shea. 10 Things You Didn't Know About Jeremiah Wright. US News and World Reports
- Banks, Adelle (2008-03-22). "Obama Finds Pulpit in Center of Racial Divide". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-03-22.
- Meyer, Stephen (2013). "Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.". In Mazurkiewicz, Margaret (ed.). Contemporary Black Biography. 103. Farmington Hills, Michigan: Gale. p. 169. ISBN 978-1-4144-8070-1. ISSN 1058-1316.
- Desmond S. King; Rogers M. Smith (4 September 2011). Still a House Divided: Race and Politics in Obama's America. Princeton University Press. pp. 4–. ISBN 978-0-691-14263-0.
- Gabrielle Brochard and John DeVecchi (2006). "Biographical Essays". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
- Wright, Jeremiah A. (1989). The pilgrimage of a pastor: The autobiography of Jeremiah A. Wright Sr. Aaron Press, ASIN B0006F1LD4
- Bill Moyers Journal. Transcripts | PBS
- Pastor Archived 2008-01-21 at the Wayback Machine Trinity United Church of Christ
- "Dr. Jeremiah A Wright Jr". Corinthian Baptist Church. Archived from the original on 2008-03-29. Retrieved 2008-03-25.
- Factor military duty into criticism - Lyndon B. Johnson, Dick Cheney, The White House - chicagotribune.com
- Korb, Lawrence and Ian Moss. "Factor military duty into criticism". Available online. Archived.
- "Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Biography". The History Makers. 2002-01-11. Archived from the original on 2008-05-05. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
- "The Biography of the Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr". Charter Day 2004 Distinguished Alumni Biographies. Howard University. 2004-03-04. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
- Emily Udell, "Keeping the Faith", In These Times, February 8, 2005. Available online. Archived.
- Yearbooks of the United Church of Christ, 1971–72
- Gorski, Eric (2008-03-18). "Message of Obama Pastor Forged in Civil Rights Movement". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2008-03-27.
- Guess, J. Bennet (2008-03-14). "Chicago's Trinity UCC Is "Great Gift to Wider Church Family". United Church of Christ. Retrieved 2008-03-27.
- "White People Welcome at Trinity United Church of Christ". YouTube. Retrieved 2008-03-27.
- Jones, Sherry (producer & director), Wilkins, Roger (correspondent), Woodruff, Judy (anchor) (June 16, 1987). FRONTLINE: reports: Keeping the Faith. Alexandria, Virginia: PBS Video. OCLC 18127027., OCLC 21357978, OCLC 18126496, OCLC 42508237
Ruth, Daniel (June 16, 1987). "Chicago minister exalts 'Faith'" (paid archive). Chicago Sun-Times. p. 50.
McBride, James (June 16, 1987). "On leaving the ghetto" (paid archive). The Washington Post. p. F3.
"'Sunday morning worship America's most segregated hour'". Post-Tribune. June 21, 1987. p. 4.
- "Official Program". Washington: Million Man March. 1995-10-16. Cite journal requires
- "Donor Profiles". The Fund for Theological Education. Archived from the original on March 2, 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
- Talev, Margaret (2008-03-20). "Obama's church pushes controversial doctrines". The McClatchy Company. Retrieved 2008-03-28.
- Wright, Jeremiah (2007-03-01). "Talking Points". Trinity United Church of Christ website. Archived from the original on 2008-03-25. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
- Sermon Archived 2010-07-25 at the Wayback Machine printed in Preaching Today, 1990.
- Obama's Pastor: God Damn America, U.S. to Blame for 9/11 Brian Ross and Rehab el-Buri, ABC News, March 13, 2008
- Dilanian, Ken (2008-03-18). "Defenders say Wright has love, righteous anger for USA". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
- Adubato, Steve (March 21, 2008). "Obama's reaction to Wright too little, too late". NBC News.
- Johnson, Alex (2008-03-14). "Obama Strongly Denounces his ex-Pastor". NBC News. Retrieved 2008-04-28.
- "Listening to Rev. Wright" OnPoint, 29 April 2008.
- Michael Powell (2008-06-01). "Following Months of Criticism, Obama Quits His Church". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
- Squires, David (June 10, 2009). "Rev. Jeremiah Wright says "Jews" are keeping him from President Obama". The Daily Press. Retrieved June 10, 2009.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates (June 11, 2009). "Jeremiah Wright". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 11, 2009.
- Jake Tapper (June 11, 2009). "Rev. Wright: I Meant to Say "Zionists" Are Keeping Me from Talking to President Obama -- Not Jews". ABC News: Political Punch. Retrieved June 11, 2009.
- Sweet, Lynn (June 12, 2009). "Wright Apologizes for 'Them Jews' as Museum Reopens". Politics Daily. Retrieved June 12, 2009.
- "Rev. Wright Clarifies". The Atlantic. June 11, 2009. Retrieved June 11, 2009.
- "ADL Expresses Outrage At Reverend Wright's Hateful And Inflammatory Comments". Anti Defamation League. June 11, 2009. Retrieved June 12, 2009.
- Mossburg, Marta. "Reverend Wright brings his anti-American crusade to Baltimore." The Baltimore Sun. 21 June 2011. 22 June 2011.
- Church to build on Wright's land. Seattle Times
- Jeremiah Wright to retire in 'white suburb'. The Telegraph
- Siler, Brenda C. (January 17, 2018). "Rev. Jeremiah Wright Still a Champion for the People". The Washington Informer. Retrieved November 13, 2020.
- Jeremiah Wright receives Simpson’s first Carver Medal
- Schettler, Emily (2008-03-27). "Medal Recipient's Recent Comments Stir Controversy". The Simpsonian. Archived from the original on November 23, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
- Goldman, Julianna (2008-05-01). "Rev. Wright's honorary degree canceled by Northwestern". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on May 10, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
- The Majesty Of The Blues – Track list
- Great Preachers: Jeremiah Wright (1998)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jeremiah Wright.|
- Biography at Answers.com
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- "Jeremiah Wright collected news and commentary". The New York Times.
- Works by or about Jeremiah Wright in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Jeremiah Wright at IMDb
- Illinois legislature resolution congratulating Wright on his retirement
- Von Hoene Jr., William A. "Rev. Wright in a different light". Chicago Tribune, 26 March 2008.
- Bill Moyers Journal - "Reverend Jeremiah Wright" PBS, April 25, 2008, interview
- Black Liberation Theology and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, interview with Dwight Hopkins, professor of theology at the University of Chicago Divinity School, BeliefNet, May 2008
- Jeremiah Wright's Service to 3 Presidents photographs and newspaper articles
- Wright's blog at RH Reality Check (one post, February 7, 2008, on HIV/AIDS)
- "The Invisible Giant: the Black Church since World War II" Wheaton College Archives & Special Collections
- Wright sermons at the official channel of Trinity United Church of Christ on YouTube
- Audio of complete sermon by Wright from which the soundbite on 9/11 was excerpted.
- Audio of complete sermon by Wright from which soundbite "God damn America" was excerpted.
- The Audacity to Hope sermon from which the title of Barack Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, is derived.
- Transcript Of A Jeremiah Wright Sermon given on January 27, 2008 Archived.
- Full video of Wright's 28 April 2008 speech on the Black church at the National Press club. Requires RealPlayer or Real Alternative