Fire in His Heart: Bishop Benjamin Tucker Tanner

Benjamin Tucker Tanner (1835-1923) distinguished himself in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as one of the foremost clergymen and editors in the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church. With depth and insight, he wrote about major events he had witnessed -- the Civil War, Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow, and the Progressive Era, among them -- and, as part of the A.M.E. Church's educated elite, he helped extend the denomination's reach into the postbellum South as well as into Canada, the Caribbean, and Africa.In Fire in His Heart, William Seraile offers the first full biography of Tanner. As Seraile shows, the Pittsburgh-born churchman struggled in his early years with his own lack of religious zeal. This concern took Tanner from pulpit preaching in 1868 to the editor's desk where, for sixteen years, he edited the Christian Recorder, the official organ of the A.M.E. Church, which he molded into a major African American newspaper. He subsequently became founding editor of the A.M.E. Church Review, and in 1888 he was made a bishop, serving districts based in Philadelphia, Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Nashville. At about the time he became a bishop, Tanner found the spiritual fire that had been absent in his youth -- a zeal that was reflected in both poetry and essays.As an editor and bishop, Tanner demonstrated an ardent commitment to human rights and a firm belief in the inclusion of all people into American society. Proud of his African heritage, he wrote books addressing the presence of the African in the Bible and thus was a pioneer in what is now called the Afrocentric school of theology. Even so, he considered himself first and foremost an American, predicting that the United States would eventually become a nation where race and color were unimportant.In its recounting and analysis of Tanner's life, writings, and intellectual contributions, Fire in His Heart underscores the importance of a key figure in the history, of the African American church