Melvin E. Banks, whose company depicting positive images of African Americans in the Bible experience has since started out in his Chicago home basement the largest independent black Christian publishing house in the United States. United, died Saturday, February 13. 2021. He was 86 years old.
His company, Urban Ministries, provides a Sunday education program, vacation Bible school resources, books, videos, music and the Urban Faith publication to hundreds of thousands of people in over 50 000 black churches. All of this portrays or speaks to people of color in the context of their culture, something Mr. Banks realized early on was lacking in the literature provided by white publishing houses.
When I grew up all Sunday school literature was produced by white people and all writing was done from a white perspective, âhe said in an initial interview.
âAll of the biblical characters have been portrayed as white people. It appeared to me that the material as published was not connected.
After completing his studies, Mr. Banks began working for the Bible Press, where he specialized in the distribution of literature for black churches across the country. However, he found that many African Americans were not interested in the Bible program because they did not see themselves represented in it.
He founded Urban Ministries in 1970 and operated it for the next 12 years in the basement of his home. He contextualized the scriptures to show their relevance to contemporary African American life and shocked many Christians, black and white, with portrayals of characters from the Bible as people of color. He insisted the images were accurate because the world of the Bible story included Middle Easterners as well as many North Africans, and also argued that this was important. Black people needed to know that they were part of the history of the Bible.
Mr Banks marketed his first Sunday school program, InTeen, to churches from the trunk of his car. The company first broke even in 1976. It identified 70 to 80 black-owned bookstores nationwide to sell its publications, as well as 400 to 500 white-owned Christian bookstores that served churches. black. He has established direct links with churches across the country and provided them with new teaching materials quarterly for more than four decades.
Urban Ministries has grown to serve more than 100,000 Sunday School and Holiday Bible School teachers across the country, as well as providing adult education materials.
âIf one could say,â he told a historian in 2004, âthat this was a man who had a dream of seeking to communicate the truth of God’s Word to people, and he was able to make a contribution to that, so I think I would be happy.
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Mr. Banks received undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology and Bible studies from the Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, respectively. Wheaton awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1992; Moody named him Alumnus of the Year in 2008; and he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association in 2017.
Mr. Banks is survived by his 64-year-old wife, Olive, and three children, Melvin Jr., Patrice Lee and Reginald Banks.