|Name||Elder Solomon Lightfoot Michaux|
Newport News, Virginia , United States
|| October 07, 1884
|Died||October 20, 1968
|Last Modifed||Thomas Walker|
Oct 25, 2005 12:53pm
|Info||Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux is a neglected modern-day African American religious leader, yet he ranks with Father Divine, Sweet Daddy Grace, Mother Horn, and Prophet Jones as one of the leading charismatic black figures of the twentieth century. Unlike Divine and Grace, neither Michaux nor his followers claimed his divinity, but like them he did have a serious social agenda. He played key roles, for example, in the presidential elections of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, Harry S. Truman in 1948, and Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. |
Michaux was born October 7, probably in 1884, in Buckroe Beach, VA. As a child and young man, he worked with his father selling fish. In 1906 Michaux married Mary Eliza Pauline, a religious extremist whose zealotry was intensified by the First World War. She encouraged her husband, a Baptist, to join the Church of Christ (Holiness), founded by Charles P. Jones. A movement built on the pious behavior of its members, the sect banned not only smoking, drinking and dancing, but also prohibited women from using lipstick, or wearing short skirts or open-toed shoes.
Around 1918 Michaux established in Newport News an independent Church of God, where in 1922 he was arrested for conducting racially integrated services. Michaux was an early preacher to use radio, a medium in which he became extraordinarily successful and popular.
In addition to Holiness perfectionism, Michaux was deeply influenced by New Thought, a vernacular belief system that claimed optimism and positive thinking could change anything, a popular American ideology running from Benjamin Franklin to Norman Vincent Peale. This philosophy was especially appealing to oppresed and powerless people of color, as the self-help theories of Booker T. Washington, Black Nationalism and Oprah Winfrey attest.
In 1928, Michaux moved to Washington, DC, where under the name Gospel Spreading Association he built a church across from the old Griffith Stadium. Manifesting his New Thought orientation, he adopted the motto "Happy Am I," which also became the title of his theme song, and he called his official publication The Happy News. Michaux's radio audience continued to expand, until there were some 25 million listeners. His organization expanded to seven churches with 25 branches.
Michaux's Holiness belief in transformation began to expand from personal piety to social change. It was the onset of the Great Depression and Michaux began to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and experiment with communitarianism.
Within this context, Michaux endorsed the presidential candidacy in 1932 of Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom he believed was a more likely bringer of change than Herbert Hoover. Michaux's advocacy influenced many African Americans, who traditionally voted for the Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
Roosevelt's victory gave Michaux powerful friends in government and extended his influence over people of color. He was never a nationalist, yet Malcolm X was eager to meet him and arranged to do so through Lightfoot Michaux's brother Lewis, who owned the militant National Memorial Bookstore in Harlem.