Dr. Melvin Banks Sr., owner of Urban Ministries, Inc., which is the largest independent Black-owned and operated publishing company in America, passed away at 86 years old.
C. Jeffrey Wright, Urban Ministries, CEO, told The Christian Post in a statement that "Dr. Banks was a revolutionary publisher and giant for the African American church and community. He was the first to create contextualized content that portrayed positive images of African Americans in the Bible. Because of his innovation, UMI has reached millions of Black churches and individuals with the Gospel."
Dr. Banks was known for highlighting a historical understanding of the people groups in the Bible, and he often portrayed Biblical characters in the skin shade they most likely would have been in real life. This came at a time when biblical characters were white-washed in American churches, so he was considered a controversial figure for highlighting these historical inaccuracies.
Dr. Banks said he did it because he wanted Black people to relate to the Bible, stating in a 2017 video: "Are you going to be accurate when you talk about what happened in the bible? Or are you going to keep on perpetuating the idea that everything is euro-centric?"
Banks contended that he did this historical work because of a disillusionment with White evangelical ignorance and abandonment of Black people during the Civil Rights Movement. He said his goal was to provide self-esteem for Black people by reminding them that there were Black characters in Scripture. "For the first time, they were gaining a sense of esteem by seeing themselves portrayed in the publication," he said in the video.
Dr. Banks was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1934. He attended Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College for advanced degrees in Biblical Studies. He got the inspiration for his publishing company when he couldn't sell biblical literature to Black churches in the U.S. because they were euro-centric and therefore not historically accurate and also an affront to the Black community.
Since the founding of Urban Ministries, Inc, the business has grown to become the largest Black-owned-and-operated Christian media and publishing company in the U.S.
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John Paluska has been a contributor for Christian Headlines since 2016 and is the founder of The Washington Gazette, a news outlet he relaunched in 2019 as a response to the constant distribution of fake news.