Utopia Park, Utopian Church: James K. Humphrey and the Emergence of the Sabbath-Day Adventists

Romauld C. Jones, Western Michigan University


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 tum 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