Even among historians of Christianity in South Africa sympathetic to the liberation struggle, there has been a tendency to focus on white clergy rather than the involvement of black clergy before the 1960s. This study of James Calata, Anglican priest and African nationalist, attempts to contribute to filling a gap in the existing historiography and also to address some of the problems raised by a biographical approach to history. Like white clergy, Calata faced opposition from the church hierarchy, but for Calata there was also a degree of racism in the way the church treated him, while his opposition was rooted in community, and integrated opposition politics and a struggle for an indigenous expression of Christianity. Calata's own ideological position reflects the ideological generosity (or vagueness) of the ANC. The essay also illustrates the radicalisation of Calata's position in response to increasing repression.