“A Rare Human Document” LoBagola’s African American Humbug Religion

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In this essay I present the case of Baltimore native Joseph Howard Lee, whose self-presentation in the 1920s and 1930s as the West African Jew Bata Kindai Amgoza ibn LoBagola, captured the attention of white American consumers of his lectures and writings that purported to offer insight into African religions, culture, and history. I propose that viewing his career not only as one of imposture, but also as involving religious humbug, brings his performative critique of white Christian America to the fore. Locating such religious humbug within the bounds of the study of religion in America challenges scholars to engage African American religious history in more complex ways than the conventional deployment of Black religion as moral prod to the conscience of white America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-48
Number of pages22
JournalAmerican Religion
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Anthropology
  • Cultural Studies


  • African American religion
  • Joseph Howard Lee
  • LoBagola
  • race and religion
  • religious humbug


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