Theologian and professor James Cone died Saturday, Union Theological Seminary reported. He was 81.
The founder of black liberation theology, Cone was a prolific author and influential thinker. He is best known for works including Black Theology & Black Power (1969) and The Cross and the Lynching Tree (2013), and was awarded 13 honorary degrees.
"Jesus Christ is not a proposition, not a theological concept which exists merely in our heads," Cone wrote of black liberation theology in 1975's God of the Oppressed. "He is an event of liberation, a happening in the lives of oppressed people struggling for political freedom. Therefore, to know him is to encounter him in the history of the weak and the helpless. That is why it can be rightly said that there can be no knowledge of Jesus independent of the history and culture of the oppressed."
"In so many ways, James Cone has been Union Theological Seminary for the past 50 years," said seminary president Serene Jones. "To say his death leaves a void is a staggering understatement."