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Black Hebrew Israelites

Black Hebrew Israelites (also called Black Hebrews, African Hebrew Israelites, and Hebrew Israelites) are groups of African Americans who believe that they are descendants of the ancient Israelites. Black Hebrews adhere in varying degrees to the religious beliefs and practices of both Christianity and Judaism. They are not recognized as Jews by the greater Jewish community. Many choose to identify as Hebrew Israelites or Black Hebrews rather than as Jews to indicate their claimed historic connections.[1] [2] [3] [4]

Many Black Hebrew groups were founded in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from Kansas to New York City, by both Americans and West Indian immigrants.[5] In the mid-1980s, the number of Black Hebrews in the United States was between 25,000 and 40,000.[6] In the 1990s, the Alliance of Black Jews (which is no longer operating) estimated that there were 200,000 African-American Jews; this estimate was based on a 1990 survey conducted by the Council of Jewish Federations.[7] The exact number of Black Hebrews within that surveyed group remains unspecified.

Black Christians traditionally have identified spiritually with the Children of Israel. In the late 19th century, some began to claim to be biological descendants of the Israelites.[8] This identification with the Israelites was a response to the sociopolitical realities of their situation in the United States, including slavery and discrimination. For African-Americans, appropriating Jewish history was part of a rebellion against the American racial hierarchy that deemed Africans inferior. It was also a means of fulfilling their desire to know their origins and regain their lost history.[9]

One of the first groups of Black Hebrews, the Church of God and Saints of Christ, was founded in 1896 in Kansas, but it retained elements of a messianic connection to Jesus.[5] During the following decades, many more Black Hebrew congregations were established, some without any connection to Christianity. After World War I, for

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