Father Grace [Daddy Grace] religious leader in Oakland performing a baptism at the waterfront in front of WWI barracks. The exact location on the waterfront is not known. Charles M. (Sweet Daddy) grace was the religious leader who began in 1926 to spread his gospel from coast to cooast. He set up houses of prayer in 67 major cities and gathered thousands of followers and built a financial empire. Grace established at least 108 "houses of prayer". He visited these places in a chauffeur-driven Cadillac, and also ran such enterprises as restaurants, cafeterias, beauty parlors and the sale of "Sweet Daddy Grace" soap, lotions, hair dress, writing paper, coffee, tea, cookies, emblems and calendars. He was born in the Portuguese Cape Verde Islands in 1883 and never became a U.S. Citizen, places his real estate holdings in the name of the "Church of the House of Prayer for All People". The constitution of his church read that members "have no power to interfere with Grace or to judge him, as he shall be judged only by God." [The Oakland Tribune, September 22, 1960] From: The Museum of California (magazine) Spring 2000, pp.35 Erin Kate Sparrow, Daddy Grace and the United House of Prayer for All People. William Sturm; Oakland History Room, Oakland Main Library. This rare photograph of a baptism gathering at the Oakland waterfront reveals the presence of a racially integrated spiritual community in Oakland in the mid-1920s led by Charles E. "Sweet Daddy" Grace, an extraordinary evangelist and entrepreneur. Grace (born Marcelino Manoel daGraca) was born in the Portuguese Cape Verde Islands on January 25, 1881. He migrated to New Bedford, Massachusetts about 1900. From 1903 to 1925, according to his biographer Erin Kate Sparrow, he worked selling medicine, in a grocery, and as a short order cook on the railway before developing a religious following. In1921, he was called to preach after returning from a trip to the Holy Land. With his followers, he established the first mission of the United House of Prayer for All People in New Bedford. Before long there were Houses of Prayer in 12 cities. Ninety percent of the members were African American, but the church maintained a color-blind perspective stemming from Grace's words, "I am God's child, and God is colorless." Did Grace establish a House of Prayer in Oakland? We have no record. Perhaps he only made visits, for he traveled a great deal, and his visits to Houses of Prayer were occasions of great pomp and celebration. Penniless when he arrived in the United States, Grace built an empire. He owned real estate and ran restaurants, cafeterias and beauty parlors. He sold "Sweet Daddy Grace" products of all kinds, from shoe polish to shampoo. Like other charismatic evangelists (Aimee Semple McPherson and Father Divine of Harlem come to mind) he was controversial, variously called a con man and a savior. Brilliant, with huge energies and appetites, he was an American success story. Grace died in Los Angeles on January 12, 1960, leaving his fortune to his church. In 1997, according to Sparrow, United Houses of Prayer of All People existed in 110 cities across the U. S. and there were seven missions in Egypt, England, Cape Verde, and Portugal.

Picture This Information

This artifact is part of the OMCA's Picture This website. More about the context and history of this artifact is available at Picture This.

About the Picture This web project: California's Perspectives on American History is a resource for teachers and students to learn about the experiences of diverse peoples of California by using primary source images from the Oakland Museum of California's collections. Organized into 11 time periods spanning from pre-1769 to the present, more than 300 photographs, drawings, posters, and prints tell stories from the perspectives of different ethnic groups. Historical contexts are provided to offer a framework of California's role in relation to American history.

The National Archives state that primary sources, "fascinate students because they are real and they are personal: history is humanized through them." Picture This invites students to examine the historical record, encouraging them to connect history with real people and explore how images tell stories and convey historical evidence about the human experience. History becomes more than just a series of facts, dates, and events.      

Bookmark and Share