Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965

By Davis W. Houck; David E. Dixon | Go to book overview
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§12 Dr. James Hudson

James Hudson was born in 1904 in Birmingham, Alabama. He met with misfortune at the tender age of seven when he was injured in a playground accident. The general lack of access to medical care for African Americans caused him unnecessarily to lose an arm. At 17 he attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, graduating in 1926. Upon graduation, he was ordained as a minister and then subsequently attended the Colgate-Rochester School of Religion, receiving his divinity degree in 1931. Reverend Hudson worked as a chaplain in Baker, Louisiana, at Leland College until 1946 when he attended Boston University earning a doctoral degree focusing on civil disobedience. He moved to Tallahassee where he joined the faculty at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) as the chaplain. Hudson created FAMU’s department of philosophy and religion the following year. Throughout his time in Tallahassee, Hudson worked closely with Reverend Charles Kenzie Steele, a close friend of his; the two worked on a wide variety of civil rights protests and boycotts in Tallahassee. Hudson remained active in the community even after his retirement from FAMU in 1973. He died in 1980, a month after the death of Reverend Steele. His papers are housed at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida.

Reverend Hudson participated enthusiastically in the civil rights struggles in Tallahassee throughout the 1950s and 1960s. His most notable involvement was his organizational work during the Tallahassee bus boycott. The impetus for the boycott dates to May 26, 1956 with the arrest of two FAMU students, Wilhelmina Jakes and Carrie Paterson. Similar to the Montgomery bus boycott, then in its six month, a car pool system worked so well that the city passed a law making it illegal. Hudson went to jail for his role even as FAMU president George W. Gore, Jr. urged students and faculty not to participate. Also like Montgomery, the leaders of the bus boycott created a new organization, the Inter Civic Council (ICC), an organization born in the black church. Hudson, Steele, and others did much to draw attention to the plight of African Americans in Florida’s capital. City by city such work created and sustained the civil rights movement.

In this brief address on world racial brotherhood, “the essence of the teachings of Jesus,” Dr. Hudson recommends “four simple routes”: recognizing differences to the extent of seeing God’s plan in diversity; acknowledging the contributions and achievements of others and even sharing those achievements across racial lines; recognition of the interdependence of humankind; and practicing the golden rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. “When each man becomes a brother,” Hudson closes, the “cruelty of the world will surely end.”

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