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Dr. Melvin E. Banks Sr., Founder of Largest African American-Owned Religious Publisher, Has Died

Banks Founded Urban Ministries Inc. in 1970 to Challenge Eurocentric Depictions of Christianity

Dr. Melvin E. Banks Sr.
Dr. Melvin E. Banks Sr. (Photo: rushtopress.org)

Dr. Melvin E. Banks Sr., founder and chairman of Urban Ministries, Inc. (UMI), has died.

Banks, who led UMI to become the largest independent African American-owned and operated religious publisher, was 86. The organization has not revealed the cause of death.

Urban Faith, which counts UMI as its parent organization, reported the news of Banks’ death on its website Saturday, February 13 under the headline “UMI MOURNS THE LOSS OF FOUNDER, DR. MELVIN E. BANKS.”

Banks, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, founded UMI in Chicago, Illinois, in 1970. His mission was to create contextualized Christian education materials for African American communities.

UMI reportedly serves more than 50,000 churches with Vacation Bible School curriculum, books, magazines, websites, and other materials. Among their latest release is the popular Precepts For Living: The UMI Annual Bible Commentary 2020-2021.

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UMI produced a video on Banks’ vision for the organization in 2017.


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