Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. John Saillant

Second Advisor

Dr. Ross Gregory

Third Advisor

Dr. Benjamin Wilson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Brian Wilson


James K. Humphrey was a Baptist minister who joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church shortly after migrating to the United States from Jamaica at the turn of the twentieth century. A leader of uncommon skill and charisma, Humphrey ministered in Harlem, New York, during the period the area became the Black capital of the United States, leading his congregation to a position of primacy in the Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Yet Humphrey believed that the African American experience in Adventism was one of disenfranchisement, a problem he attempted to ameliorate with the establishment of the Utopia Park Benevolent Association. When Humphrey refused to abort or alter his plans at the request of Seventh-day Adventist church leaders, his credentials were revoked and his congregation expelled from the denomination. Subsequently, Humphrey established an independent Black religious organization, the United Sabbath-Day Adventists.

This study focuses on the ministerial tenure of James K. Humphrey, as a Seventh-day Adventist and later as a Sabbath-Day Adventist pastor. The study: (a) explores Humphrey’s social and political world, (b) examines West Indian-American relations in Harlem during the early twentieth century, (c) traces the African-American experience in the Seventh-day Adventist church up to 1930, (d) investigates the Utopia Park affair, and (e) surveys the church history of the Sabbath-Day Adventists both during and after the leadership of Humphrey. Cultural history and ethnohistory, as well as biography and oral history, are utilized to place Humphrey in his political and social context, which is early twentieth century Black New York in general, and Harlem in particular.

Humphrey’s break with the Seventh-day Adventist church provides clues to the state of African Americans in the denomination at that time, and has had an impact on Black-White relationships in the organization ever since. It set the stage for the creation of the separate administrative structure for African Americans in the Seventh-day Adventist church that was established in 194S. The history of the United Sabbath-Day Adventists also demonstrates the struggles of small, independent Black congregations in the urban community during the twentieth century.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access