Annual baptism of the United House of Prayer for All People Church, Philadelphia

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Unknown
Medium
Photography
Credit Line
John W. Mosley Photograph Collection, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection, Temple University Libraries, Philadelphia, PA.

In these photographs, Mosley depicts the various activities in Philadelphia of the United House of Prayer for All People, founded by Charles Manuel “Sweet Daddy” Grace in 1919 in Wareham, Massachusetts.

Grace was known for his attention-getting abilities; he wore purple suits with ostentatious jewelry, traveled in lavishly decorated automobiles, and purchased expensive homes. His church was a Pentecostal sect, and he conducted baptisms for thousands at a time in rivers and on city streets with firehoses. Grace took donations called “love offerings” from his mostly poor followers. Grace used the money he collected to support his lavish lifestyle.

Grace was a showman. Many people, especially the leadership of the black community in Philadelphia, rejected his unorthodox theology and criticized him as a charlatan. In addition to his unethical behavior, he is also remembered for his long hair and three-inch fingernails. His taught his followers to speak in unintelligible sounds that were intended to signify possession by the Holy Spirit.

At the time of his death in 1960, Grace owed $4.5 million in taxes, resulting in a period of confusion, restructuring, and streamlining within the church. Today the United House of Prayer for All People remains an active church with a national membership in the tens of thousands.

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